1. Is time to introduce Salah from the bench?
It’s safe to say Salah has been some way short of his best form. The unerring confidence, the calmness in goal-scoring positions seem to momentarily desert him. Salah post World Cup is a player shot of confidence, not helped by his Mount Everest heights of the previous season.
Against PSG, it reached a climax with the Egyptian pulled out of the game to give way to Shaqiri. Reports of the water bottle incident was overblown by people eager to see cracks in the Puwkas award winner.
Perhaps a spell on the bench will do the 26 year old a lot of good. With Shaqiri impressing recently, maybe, he will benefit from time away from the spotlight. Risky given the size and reputation of their opponent but still worth a punt. Imagine bringing in a 44 goal player to rescue a game. Heck, City with all their fine attacking players didn’t have a player with such ridiculous numbers.
Kloop might be tempted to start him from the start but Salah can’t afford to keep pilling up poor games so early in the season with City in first place and looking quite unstoppable.
2. Will City inflict more damage to Liverpool’s brittle team spirit?
No sugar coating it, Liverpool were dire against Napoli, the Italian based club ran ring around the Kop’s midfield and fashioned chance after chance. We were told that Liverpool needed a bit more steel and solidity in defence. It seemed they rectified that nagging problem. They have been near faultless until Chelsea came to town and attacked with veteran authority.
Liverpool didn’t expect Chelsea’s intensity and looked vulnerable to Hazard and co. A first loss of the season the League Cup gave birth to their second barely a week later. From a seemingly lofty height of near invincibility, Liverpool enter the game second favourites. It was a lot closer two weeks ago.
If City perceive a slight downturn in their positive play, they will exploit with full force. For the first time since Kloop arrived in England, many are not expecting Liverpool to come away with victory. Still you can’t rule Liverpool out. Kloop has a job on his hands to rally his troops: their perennial enemy and imminent threat to their glory is in town.
3. Will City take advantage of their superiority out wide?
Liverpool will not allow City settle into their usual rhythmic, mesmerising passing. They will harry, they will press relentlessly. Maybe it’s time City learnt from their heavy losses to Liverpool in the past and play through the flank. In Sane, Sterling, and Mahrez, City have enough in their weaponry to dismantle most fullbacks. It’s time City play to their strength and unnerve Liverpool with one on one battles on the flanks.
Mendy’s relentless energy was sorely missed last season even if they sauntered to the title unopposed. His tireless running can disarm Trent Alexander Arnold, who was particularly poor up against Insigne.
Not that Liverpool are lacking in that department but the difference is that City have, clearly, the better raft of full-backs in Walker and Mendy. I’m looking forward to this tasty encounter.
4. Does Daniel Sturridge deserve to start?
Four goals in seven matches and Danny is undergoing something of a renaissance at Liverpool. The constantly crooked and brittle player is fast becoming more than just an after-thought. He is playing his way into the heart of Jurgen Kloop. His outrageous goal to even the points at Stamford bridge would lend credence to his case.
Sniffing around for slim pickings as a substitute might not be ideal for a striker brimming in confidence. However, if Firmino starts, it wouldn’t be a shock at all. The Brazilian has formed a fine understanding with the attacking players wide of him. He makes the attack tick and is the first line of defence.
Perhaps he’d like to think that the Englishman offers something different from his Brazilian compatriot. It’s a nice headache to have and certainly one of the sub plots before the game.
5. Will defeat for either team derail their season?
City are unbeaten, have score loads more than their rivals and are looking impregnable. Surely a hammering at the hands of Liverpool can do some damage? Or is that wishful thinking? The thing is the Pep philosophy is deeply ingrained in this City team that a shell-shackling at the hands of Liverpool will only be a minor blip in their march to the title.
Liverpool on the other hand are contenders playing catch up. There is no doubt that Liverpool want the title. They are, for all that, are inexperienced at winning stuff. It will take more than just beating City on the pitch to best them over a season.
But a victory over Man City wouldn’t be all that bad, now would it?