2018-19 EPL Match Day 17 Preview — Liverpool (13-3-0) vs. Manchester United (7-5-4)

There are two important things Jurgen Klopp has yet to do at Liverpool – lift a trophy and defeat Manchester United in Premier League play. While the Reds still have three opportunities to do the former, they have arguably the best chance during his tenure to do the latter Sunday when the table-topping Reds host Jose Mourinho’s inconsistent side.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

Since arriving at Merseyside in October 2015, Klopp has one win in seven lifetime matches (1-4-2) against Manchester United – a 2-0 victory in the first leg of Liverpool’s round of 16 tie in the 2016 Europa League. That was one of two continental runners-up finishes for Liverpool (13-3-0), the other coming last spring in the Champions League.

There was also a runners-up finish in the 2016 League Cup, and the absence of silverware alongside the five European championships, 18 league titles, seven FA Cups and eight League Cups since lifting the 2012 League Cup has been the one thing that has frustrated supporters.

United (7-5-4), in turn, have done a good job flustering Klopp in league play with three draws and two defeats. Liverpool have failed to score in Klopp’s three matches at Anfield versus United, suffering a 1-0 defeat to Louis van Gaal in 2016 before being held to scoreless draws by Mourinho in the last two meetings.

“In the league, I don’t remember bad results too much, to be honest, but I don’t feel we always got the right result for the performance we had,” Klopp said at his Friday news conference when asked about the overall interest in the match between the two football titans. “Last year, they had a very, very good start in the home game against us and then we more or less took over but couldn’t get the game back, so it was a draw.

Before, I don’t even remember it, but I don’t think we won a lot, so we’ll try to change that at least. It will be a very intense game and we need to be ready for that.”

Liverpool are enjoying their best Premier League start in club history and emerged as the last of the unbeatens after defending champions Manchester City lost to Chelsea last weekend. That defeat, coupled with the Reds’ 4-0 thrashing of Bournemouth, put Klopp’s side atop the Premier League table for the first time since Sept. 22.

To continue ruling the roost, Liverpool will have to show plenty of resiliency after scraping into the Champions League knockout round for a second straight year. The Reds finished runners-up in Group C after a nervy 1-0 victory over Napoli on Tuesday – a triumph and advancement preserved by Alisson’s point-blank save on Arkadiusz Milik in stoppage time.

The save by the Brasil international shows how Liverpool have come full circle in their footballing, from a swashbuckling side willing to win matches by outscoring opponents as late as last season’s Champions League semifinals to one who can deliver this type of grind-out 1-0 result with a rock-strong defence anchored by Alisson and towering centre back Virgil Van Dijk.

The combined £125 million in transfer fees for the pair have been worth every penny as Liverpool are contenders to lift their first Premier League trophy and win their first title since 1990. But the primary goal in this match is to put another three points on top of the 16 that already exist between themselves and United.

“You know what you’re going to face,” Van Dijk told Sky Sports when asked about playing United. “We have pretty good pace as well, so we don’t need to be scared of anything. But obviously we need to be aware of their danger; they have good players, especially up front.

“We need to be ready for that. But we need to play our game and make sure we are on top of them and make sure they are put under pressure.”

Klopp will have to reshuffle parts of his back four since centre backs Joe Gomez and Joel Matip are sidelined with injuries. Gomez’s versatility will be sorely missed – he also played right back – but Dejan Lovren is still a quality partner for Van Dijk. Right back Trent Alexander-Arnold is also expected to miss out with an ankle injury, with Nathaniel Clyne likely starting in his place.

In his attacking six, it is unknown if Klopp will stick to his regular 4-3-3 in which Mohamed Salah – the offensive hero against Napoli with his first-half goal – Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane are across the front line, or use a 4-2-3-1 he has preferred of late in domestic play in which Salah is up front and Mane, Firmino and Xherdan Shaqiri are behind him.

Salah is in blistering form with six goals in his last seven matches across all competitions, but the Egypt international, Mane and Firmino have failed to breach United’s defence for a goal in 855 minutes playing together.

While there are few as good as setting up a defence to negate an opponent’s offence as Mourinho, this United team has lurched in quality from match to match all term and arrive at Anfield on a low ebb of that range. Manchester United squandered a chance to finish atop Group H in the Champions League, turning in an insipid performance at Valencia in a 2-1 defeat Wednesday.

Mourinho rotated a good portion of his side for this contest – he made eight changes from the side that beat Fulham 4-1 last weekend as United were already through to the Champions League round of 16 – but the back four continued to be problematic as they conceded on 17 minutes and again right after halftime as defender Phil Jones had a brutal own goal in which his sliding back pass rolled right past keeper Sergio Romero.

Marcus Rashford had a late consolation goal, but with group leaders Juventus suffering a stunning loss at home to last-place Young Boys, United’s performance against a team currently 15th in Spain’s La Liga was too poor for Mourinho to not lose his cool post-match.

“I didn’t learn anything from this game. Nothing that happened surprised me,” he fumed. “I thought we were too passive in the first half. But I think fundamentally this, we wasted the first half playing too comfortable and not enough with the intensity.”

Midfielder Paul Pogba did play the full 90 minutes in his first start in three matches, but he showed Mourinho little reason to be included in the starting XI for this match. Antonio Valencia’s performance at right back also left little to be desired, and it is very possible two of Diogo Dalot’s first three starts at that spot will come against fellow Big Six opponents after the first one came against Arsenal earlier this month.

Up front, Mourinho is hoping Anthony Martial will be available after sitting out the last two matches due to injury. The France international has been United’s best performer in league play with a team-high seven goals despite logging just 787 minutes. By comparison, Romelo Lukaku – the only other player with more than three goals in league play – has six in 1,094 minutes.

Rashford, though, has been in a fine patch of form with two goals and four assists in his last four matches in all competitions. He also powered United to a win over Liverpool in the most recent meeting last term, bagging a brace in the first 24 minutes of a 2-1 win at Old Trafford.

United are unbeaten in their last eight in league play (5-3-0) against Liverpool since a 3-0 defeat at home March 6, 2014. They are also 12-6-8 at Anfield in the Premier League era and 2-2-0 since a 1-0 defeat Sept. 1, 2013, on a fourth-minute goal by Daniel Sturridge.

Sturridge also recorded Liverpool’s last home goal against Manchester United in a 2-1 loss March 22, 2015, with their home drought versus United at 291 minutes in league play.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Bet365, Liverpool are healthy 4/7 favourites to claim all three points and remain atop the Premier League table, while United are 11/2 underdogs to regroup from their setback in Spain and begin their charge to challenge for a top-five spot. The odds of the sides splitting the points are 16/5.

Though it would surprise no one to see Mourinho set up United in a defensive stance, oddsmakers do not appear overly convinced it will slow Liverpool down much as there are 8/11 odds for more than 2.5 goals scored compared to 11/10 odds to finish under that threshold. There is even money for one side to post a shutout compared to 3/4 odds for both teams scoring.

Liverpool own the first six slots for potential first-goal scorers, with Salah leading the way at 10/3. Understudies Daniel Sturridge (7/2) and Divock Origi (4/1) complete the top three, followed by Firmino (9/2), Mane (5/1) and Xherdan Shaqiri (13/2). While Lukaku is United’s top option, it is a clear fall-off for oddsmakers at 17/2. Martial is a 9/1 option, while Pogba and Rashford are both 11/1 — just behind James Milner (10/1).

For any-time goal-scorers, both Salah (10/11) and Sturridge (20/21) are better than even money selections. Origi is 11/10, followed by Firmino (5/4), Mane (7/5) and Shaqiri (15/8). Lukaku and Martial are United’s top options once more at 13/5 and 11/4, respectively, while Rashford and Pogba again slot behind Milner, this time at 10/3 compared to 3/1 for the Merseyside’s dependable penalty-taker.

PREDICTION

The debate for Klopp between using a 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 will rage right up to kickoff, but Liverpool have a chance to go for the jugular here in terms of showing their superiority over Manchester United. Thus, the expectation in this space is Klopp will go all out to turn the screws on Mourinho. That means putting a well-rested Shaqiri into the first XI and testing Shaw and Dalot on the flanks early and often through the Swiss international and Mane.

With Liverpool’s back four mainly defined by who is not available for Klopp, the midfield presents selection headaches of the good kind because the Liverpool gaffer can mix and match to his wants. It was telling Klopp trusted Fabinho enough to start him in the Merseyside derby, and that was with Everton having a far better playmaker in Gylfi Sigurdsson than any one United can offer in the middle of the park if Mourinho drops Pogba to the bench as expected.

The only potential midfielder who would be a surprise inclusion into the first XI would be Adam Lallana, otherwise, the expectation is to see Fabinho and Giorginio Wijnaldum reprise their partnership as the defensive midfield pairing.

Given how Mourinho plays pragmatically, the lineup above is arguably the most defensive route he can take and a formation that can morph into a 5-4-1 with Lukaku as the lone striker. Would it surprise anyone if he did start Pogba? Not really, but after a vanilla performance against Valencia mid-week, there is little to believe Mourinho would give him a second chance.

Given Martial’s injury issues, the expectation is he will start on the bench behind Lingard, who has been solid since picking up his play of late. Rashford right now is the best thing United have going offensively, and he must challenge Andrew Robertson at every opportunity to at least try and stretch Liverpool’s back four.

With no trophies since his arrival, this is a de facto cup final for Klopp and Liverpool. Win this match, and win it impressively, and it serves notice to Manchester City there is most certainly a title race for the final five months. Nothing less will suffice in this instance, and given United’s poor form, nothing less should suffice.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Liverpool 2, Manchester United 1.

OTHER EPL MATCH DAY 17 PREVIEWS:

Manchester City (13-2-1) vs. Everton (6-6-4)
Wolverhampton (6-4-6) vs. Bournemouth (7-2-7)
Huddersfield Town (2-4-10) vs. Newcastle United (3-4-9)
Tottenham Hotspur (12-0-4) vs. Burnley (3-3-10)

2018-19 UEFA Champions League Match Day 6 Preview — x-Manchester City (3-1-1, 10, +9) vs. Hoffenheim 1899 (0-3-2, 3, -2)

Manchester City need just a draw in Wednesday’s Champions League finale to finish atop Group F, something that is not expected to be too demanding as they face group-bottom Hoffenheim 1899.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

The reigning Premier League champions, though, are coming off their first loss in domestic play, a 2-0 defeat at Chelsea on Saturday that ended a 16-match unbeaten streak in all competitions (14-2-0). It was also just the second time Manchester City were held without a goal, the other coming in a scoreless draw at Anfield versus Liverpool.

Even playing without injured striker Sergio Aguero and still without top playmaker Kevin De Bruyne, City still looked the better side as Raheem Sterling was inserted between Leroy Sane and Riyad Mahrez as a false nine. Yet the Citizens were caught out on a counter over the top, finished by N’Golo Kante just before halftime, and they were consigned to a defeat when David Luiz added a second 12 minutes from time.

For all of City’s imperious displays this term, the loss also showed the fine line they are walking because the loss also dropped them behind Liverpool in the Premier League table.

“We still have a target against Hoffenheim to win the game and finish top,” Sane told City’s official website. “We want to finish first and hopefully look good for the Round of 16 draw – it’s important we win and end the group stage strongly.

“Even more so because we lost at Chelsea on Saturday and didn’t start the group stage very well.”

Though there is something at stake, City manager Pep Guardola is going to rotate a good portion of his side given the hectic December fixture list. Nicolas Otamendi and Fernandinho are both one yellow card from picking up a one-match ban that would rule them out of the first leg round of 16 tie, and while Aguero is in a similar predicament, Guardiola has ruled him out with his adductor injury.

The City boss, in fact, stated he has just 15 healthy senior players available for this match, also ruling out De Bruyne, David Silva and Danilo. Benjamin Mendy and backup keeper Claudio Bravo remain long-term absentees with injuries, which does limit some of Guardiola’s abilities to rotate his side.

“We have 15 players tomorrow it’s a really tough game,” he said at Tuesday’s news conference. “We are in next stage which is important but we have to try and win every game, to finish first. Last-16 is always tough but in general the next Monday when there is a draw it’s a success we are there and the team we will face will be tough.

“They (Hoffenheim) were incredible against Donetsk and they lost. It was incredible and fascinating to watch as a spectator. My admiration for Hoffenheim has increased. I knew about Julian Nagelsmann and his team but now I realise how tough tomorrow will be.”

While Guardiola is effusive in praise of his German counterpart, getting three points to have a chance of reaching the Europa League as third-place finishers in Group F remains a daunting task for Hoffenheim. The 12 goals they have shipped are better than only fellow Group F side Shakhtar Donetsk and both AEK and Red Star Belgrade.

“As an optimist, I can say that it’ll be difficult to get third place,” Nagelsmann said Tuesday. “We don’t have a lot to lose tomorrow, so we want to show the football that got us to the Champions League in the first place.”

Domestic play has not treated Die Kraichgauer much better of late as Hoffenheim have just one win from their last six matches overall (1-4-1) and are winless in their last four (0-3-1). Hoffenheim are coming off a 2-2 draw at Wolfsburg on Saturday as Andrej Kramaric salvaged a point with a goal in the 71st minute.

Kramaric had set up Ishak Belfodil in the fourth minute, but an own goal by Ermin Bicakcic and a strike from Daniel Ginczek four minutes apart left Hoffenheim down 2-1 after 32 minutes.

“I was very satisfied with the opening 20 minutes. We consciously gave up possession in order to have chances to counter,” Nagelsmann told his club’s official website. “We defended too aggressively before the equaliser. Thereafter, we did not get to grips with our pressing too well. During the interval we brought on another striker – we couldn’t get much more attacking than that.

We deserved to get the equaliser and dominated the second half. It was a fair result. The right commitment was there and I like that.”

Kramaric, who helped Croatia reach the World Cup final last summer, has a team-best 10 goals in all competitions and netted four in Champions League play. Joelinton has gone five matches without a goal for Hoffenheim since his brace versus Bayer Leverkusen on Nov. 3.

“Andrej Kramaric also plays in the number eight position and does that well,” Nagelsmann said. “He has a lot more to him than goals and assists. He is very critical of himself but his heart is in the right place”

Hoffenheim have never won a Champions League road match in three tries, though they did draw Shakhtar and Lyon earlier in this group. This will be their second trip to England, with the other result a 4-2 setback in a second-leg qualifying round match last year versus Liverpool.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Bet365, City are overwhelming favourites to cap group play on a winning note and enter this match as a 2/9 pick for a victory. Hoffenheim are 12/1 longshots to avoid going winless in group play, and there are 13/2 odds on the teams splitting the points, a result also acceptable for the reigning Premier League champs.

Given the open play of Hoffenheim coupled with City’s quality, oddsmakers are expecting a haul of goals as there are 3/10 odds on there being more than 2.5 goals compared to 5/2 odds for it being a low-scoring affair. The odds of both teams finding the back of the net are 4/6, with 11/10 odds on either side posting a clean sheet.

With Aguero out, Jesus has moved to the top of the board for first-goal scoring options at 3/1, followed by Sterling (9/2), Mahrez (5/1) and Sane (6/1). With Guardiola’s expected rotation, some of the bottom players on the 25-man roster are seeing action, including Brahim Diaz (8/1) and Foden (11/1).

Bernardo Silva is also an 8/1 option to make it 1-0 for the hosts, while Ilkay Gundogan is 11/1 to do likewise. Kramaric and Joelinton are the top options for Hoffenheim at 14/1, just ahead of Belfodil (16/1) — who gave Die Kraichgauer a shock lead in the opening minute of the reverse fixture.

Jesus (8/15) and Sterling (10/11) lead the any-time goal-scoring options, with Mahrez checking in at even money. Sane is just off that pace at 5/4, followed by Diaz and Bernardo Silva at 7/4. Kramaric and Joelinton again are the top picks for the visitors with both being offered at 11/4.

PREDICTION

It is a shame Manchester City supporters have not fully warmed up to Champions League group matches at the Etihad because this has the potential to be a wild back-and-forth contest. There were two goals in the first eight minutes of the reverse fixture, which then calmed until David Silva’s 87th-minute winner.

It is admittedly difficult to figure out what exactly Guardiola is going to do with his back line. It could range from anywhere with Fabian Delph being shifted from left to right back to let Oleksander Zinchenko play left back to Otamendi playing in central defence or in central midfield ahead of a partnership of John Stones and Vincent Kompany.

Otamendi sitting on a potential yellow card ban is less than ideal, but if there is going to be one player between him and Fernandinho to sit out this match because of such a possiblity, Fernandinho is going to be the spectator. Additionally, Guardiola had been looking to give his central midfielder a rest ahead of the holiday fixtures, and this is as good a time as any.

Though a 4-3-3 is projected, it would not be surprising to see Guardiola use a 4-4-2 in which Jesus and Sterling are up front with Mahrez and Sane lying deeper behind the pair. Another possibility is a 4-1-4-1 with Jesus as the lone striker, which would allow Sterling to terrorise Hoffenheim’s back four with his pace.

Kramaric has been in exquisite form — his equaliser at Wolfsburg extended his goal-scoring streak to eight matches in all competitions for Hoffenheim. But not having centre back Kevin Vogt could prove problematic for a team that has often looked out of their depth in this tournament and need a win.

City could put this match out of its misery early with a pair of strikes in the first half-hour, though Hoffenheim are more than capable of finding a quick goal for the second time in as many matches between the sides. But in the end, it will be too much City, who will wrap up group honours with a win.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Manchester City 4, Hoffenheim 1.

OTHER UEFA Champions League Match Day 6 Previews:

y-Barcelona (4-1-0, 13, +9) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (2-1-2, 7, -1)
Liverpool (2-0-3, 6, +1) vs. Napoli (2-3-0, 9, +3)
Valencia (1-2-2, 5, -1) vs. x-Manchester United (3-1-1, 10, +4)

2018-19 UEFA Champions League Match Day 6 Preview — Liverpool (2-0-3, 6, +1) vs. Napoli (2-3-0, 9, +3)

The most straightforward way Liverpool can advance to the knockout round of the Champions League for a second straight year Tuesday is with a 1-0 victory over Napoli at Anfield.

The question is whether their improved defence can live up to that 90-minute challenge or whether their offence will have to deliver like last term to reach the round of 16 in Europe’s most prestigious club tournament.

“It’s going to be a difficult game. That’s how they play but we need to play our game, we need to be ready to do what we’ve been doing almost the whole season,” centre back Virgil Van Dijk said at Monday’s pre-match news conference. “We have plenty of quality to score and we have plenty of quality to defend as well, but at the end of the day it’s all about showing it on the pitch. It is all about showing it on the pitch.”

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

Though Liverpool have taken the pole position in the Premier League table following their 4-0 romp at Bournemouth combined with Manchester City’s first defeat — a 2-0 reverse at Chelsea — looking down at their domestic peers has taken a back seat to the urgency of Tuesday’s moment. If the Reds, currently third in Group C on six points, fail to keep a clean sheet, they must beat the Italian side by two or more goals to advance.

The good news for Jurgen Klopp’s team is that the match is being played at Anfield, where they have won both their group matches and been near-invincible. Liverool’s only defeat in 10 matches (8-1-1) across all competitions at home was a 2-1 loss to Chelsea in the Carabao Cup, and they have scored 23 goals with only five in reply while posting seven clean sheets.

“So far at home we were good – we have to be even better tomorrow night. I told the boys, I really think if nothing special happens with referee decisions, we get tomorrow night what we deserve,” Klopp said. “The only way to make that sure is to really perform at our highest level in the two big parts of the game: defensive and offensive. That makes it special. But we caused the situation and we are responsible in a good way and in a bad way.

The group is a hard one; that was clear when we got the draw. Now we have the chance to go through and that is pretty special after the campaign we played so far.”

The Reds have been two distinctly different sides home and away through their first five group matches, always level or ahead at home and failing to grab a lead in any of their three road contests. The seven goals allowed overall are one more than they have yielded in 16 Premier League matches, though Saturday’s 4-0 rout at Dean Court was more about striker Mohamed Salah re-discovering his lethal form from last term with three goals against the Clarets.

The Egypt international has eight goals in his last 10 matches in all competitions and has a team-high 12. Three of the dozen have come in group play, and Liverpool have also struck three times from the spot for nearly half of their eight goals.

“What Mo did around his two goals in the second half was just exceptional,” Klopp said after Saturday’s win. “I don’t know at the moment a lot of players who would have scored these two goals. The first one, it is a foul actually but he wants to score the goal so he stays on his feet and scores it. It was not the most impressive finish but I would say it was pretty surprising [for the goalkeeper]. His third goal was outstanding as well; really, how we set it up and all that stuff was good.”

Klopp does have some selection questions for this match, most notably who will pair with Van Dijk in central defence. Joel Matip got the call this weekend, but the Cameroon international is coming off back-to-back starts on a short turnaround and has yet to be in the first XI for three consecutive matches. That leaves Dejan Lovren, who sat out the last two matches due to a concussion but returned to practice Monday, as the most likely option.

In the midfield, Klopp must also decide whether he will stick to his regular 4-3-3 formation or the 4-2-3-1 he has used on occasion. Jordan Henderson is likely back after being held out at Bournemouth, while James Milner is hoping to get back in the midfield after playing right back — a spot Trent Alexander-Arnold is expected to reclaim.

Naby Keita and Fabinho are also midfield options, with Giorginio Wijnaldum likely to hold down one of those three spots if Klopp goes 4-3-3 or in a defensive midfield pairing in a 4-2-3-1 set-up.

Napoli are atop the group on nine points, one better than Paris-St. Germain, and are unbeaten in 12 matches (8-4-0) overall since a 3-1 loss at scudetto-holders Juventus on Sept. 29. The Partenopei have won three on the bounce after storming past Frosinone 4-0 on Saturday as Arkadiusz Milik had a second-half brace set up by Faouzi Ghoulam after Piotr Zielinski and Adam Ounas scored in the first half.

Napoli manager Carlo Ancelotti was able to rest some of his regulars ahead of this match, most notably keeper David Ospina and striker Dries Mertens along with centre back Raul Albiol and midfielder Jose Callejon. Despite spending four seasons with Arsenal — mainly as a backup to Petr Cech in the previous three — Ospina has never played at the cauldron that is Anfield.

It was the second brace Milik has notched at home for the Partenopei and is third on the team with seven goals, trailing only joint-leaders Lorenzo Insigne and Mertens — who have 10 apiece in all competitions.

Despite their current form, Napoli are still eight points adrift of Juventus in Serie A through 15 matches. The Italian side are trying to avoid their second straight exit in group play after finishing third in a group behind Manchester City and Shakhtar Donetsk last term, but Ancelotti is confident his side can get a result after recording a 1-0 victory in the reverse fixture Oct. 3 on a 90th-minute goal by Insigne.

“We know what to expect from Liverpool,” Ancelotti said at Monday’s news conference at Anfield. “We know all about the tempo they play at but we have to focus first and foremost on our own game. If we’re smart in defence and incisive in attack, we have an excellent chance of going through.

“The reverse fixture gives us confidence but we don’t know if we’ll be able to reproduce that performance. We certainly won’t sit back and let Liverpool come at us. We believe in our ability and our potential. A lot of what happens on the pitch is down to us, but it also depends on how Liverpool play. We have this final step to take and we believe we can take it even at a very tough ground like Anfield.”

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Bet365, Liverpool are 8/13 favourites to get the job done and make a return to the knockout round. There are 7/2 odds for Napoli to hold out enough for a draw and seal their advancement and 9/2 odds to grab a victory that would see them through as the group winners.

Oddsmakers are expecting both teams to press for goals, with 8/15 odds on there being more than 2.5 goals compared to 6/4 odds for failing to reach that threshold. There are also 4/7 odds for both teams to bag a goal, and 5/4 odds of there being at least one clean sheet.

Salah’s current rich vein of goal-scoring has made him the favourite for the match’s first goal-scorer at 10/3, followed by teammates Daniel Sturridge (15/4), Divock Origi (4/1), Roberto Firmino (5/1) and both Dominic Solanke and Sadio Mane (11/2). Mertens (6/1) and Insigne (13/2) are Napoli’s top options, with Liverpool’s Xherdan Shaqiri also 13/2, a step ahead of Milik (15/2).

Salah and Sturridge are better than even money odds to score over the course of the 90 minutes at 4/5 and 10/11, respectively. Origi is at even money, with Firmino lurking behind him at 5/4. Solanke and Mane have 7/5 odds, and Mertens is 8/5. Insigne and Shaqiri are again paired together at 7/4, and Milik has 2/1 odds along with Callejon.

PREDICTION

It really is all there for Liverpool, but the question is which way are they going to take to get there. Obviously, they will try to ride the emotion of the home supporters at Anfield, and the first half-hour will turn into a high-paced match in which the Reds try to turn the screws on Napoli.

The next question is what happens if Liverpool score in those 30 minutes. Do you make the commitment to find the second and then try to kill off the match, or do you have trust in Alisson and Van Dijk at the back four to hold that 1-0 advantage until the final whistle?

The Partonepei did not have an overwhelming majority of the possession in the reverse fixture at 54 percent, but they were far more efficient with the ball — Napoli attempted 16 shots to Liverpool’s four and registered five on target while the Reds failed to do so. Klopp also had to make an injury-forced substitution less than 20 minutes into that contest as Keita suffered a back injury, but Liverpool were clearly second-best and can ill-afford such a repeat performance at Anfield.

Liverpool are unbeaten in their last 10 Champions League home matches (7-3-0) since a 3-0 loss to Real Madrid on Oct. 22, 2014. AS Roma was the most recent Serie A side to visit Anfield and took a 5-2 drubbing in last term’s first-leg semifinal.

Napoli are winless in their last five Champions League road contests (0-2-3), though both draws have come this season. The Partonepei are 0-1-3 on Premier League grounds in this competition, suffering a 2-1 loss at the Etihad last term. The only point Napoli claimed was a 1-1 draw at Manchester City in 2011.

This should be a finely balanced match, but in the end, the fire of the Anfield cauldron will again prove too much for a European side as the five-times champions will scrape through into the next round.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Liverpool 2, Napoli 0.

OTHER UEFA Champions League Match Day 6 Previews:

y-Barcelona (4-1-0, 13, +9) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (2-1-2, 7, -1)
x-Manchester City (3-1-1, 10, +9) vs. Hoffenheim 1899 (0-3-2, 3, -2)
Valencia (1-2-2, 5, -1) vs. x-Manchester United (3-1-1, 10, +4)

2018-19 EPL Match Day 15 Preview — Burnley (2-3-9) vs. Liverpool (11-3-0)

It is the kind of victory than can galvanise a team to do special things in a season. But facing a short turnaround, Liverpool know their dramatic Merseyside Derby win will mean little if they do not follow it up with another three points Wednesday at Turf Moor versus struggling Burnley.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

The 232nd matchup between the Reds and Everton was a tense affair with Liverpool goalkeeper Allison preserving a scoreless deadlock early with a world-class save on a point-blank header from Andre Gomes inside the six-yard box before Joe Gomez cleared the ball off the line midway through the first half. There were few scoreless chances over the final 45 minutes until a moment of sheer luck and folly followed in stoppage time.

Liverpool defender Virgil Van Dijk scuffed a volley attempt, slicing it like a pop-up with his right foot and turning away in disgust as it sailed towards goal. Everton keeper Jordan Pickford, trying to make a play on it, failed to tip it over the bar for a corner kick but instead knocked it straight up, causing it to bounce on the top of the crossbar.

From there it fell forward and Divock Origi – the last gamble off the bench from Jurgen Klopp and playing his first Premier League match since the start of last season – nodded it home in the 96th minute to send the Kop into delirium and his manager into a frenzied on-pitch celebration with Alisson that will undoubtedly result, in the very least, a five-figure fine.

The 1-0 victory marked a 19th straight year Everton would leave Anfield and retreat across Stanley Park without a victory, but more importantly for Liverpool (11-3-0), the result kept them two points behind defending champions Manchester City.

“It was a really difficult game today – derbies are always difficult but today it was a completely different difficult to the last few years,” Klopp said post-match. “All my respect for Everton, they were really good. Both teams delivered a proper fight, a proper derby from the first second.

“Of course, it was a bit lucky – Virg, in the moment when the ball left his foot I thought it was over and then you see the back-spin, you see the ball flies direct onto the crossbar and then it was an unthankful job for Pickford and Divock was there. It was a very intense game and obviously a much nicer finish for us.”

Klopp opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation for this match, putting his best four attacking options out there in Firmino, Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Xherdan Shaqiri. Given the intensity of the derby, it would not be surprising to see Klopp revert to the 4-3-3 he has used for most of the season, with the most obvious change being Jordan Henderson back in the middle of the park after serving his one-match ban for his double booking versus Watford.

James Milner and Naby Keita could complete the midfield trio given the former was an unused substitute and the latter entered for Shaqiri in the 71st minute. In defence, it would not be surprising to see either Gomez or Van Dijk get this match off with Dejan Lovren entering in central defence.

While Liverpool are coming off the highest of highs, Burnley (2-3-9) continue to deal with the lows of a season that began with such promise and Europa League qualifying rounds. The Clarets are ahead of only Fulham in the table after their fifth loss in six matches, a 2-0 defeat at Crystal Park on Saturday.

“We are in that strange position where the eye of the tiger has gone a little. Last year everyone was on it, all of the time, and we showed no fear,” manager Sean Dyche told the club’s official website after the loss. “We looked people in the eye and said, ‘you had better be ready, because we are’ and that gives you a chance with everything, particularly when you have that underdog feel.

“Our status has changed, which should be a good thing. The players and the club have become more recognised, because of the achievements of last season, and that brings a different demand. I actually enjoy that, because we’ve worked hard to be recognised. But while some individuals love that and thrive on it, others find it really tough and we are kind of in that mixed bag and it’s affecting the group tactically.”

What made the performance all the more jarring is that Burnley – a sound side last term who finished seventh by conceding just 39 goals – have already shipped 29 through 14 matches. The offence is not helping matters any with just four goals during their seven-match winless spell (0-2-5) and did not register a shot on target versus the Eagles.

Crystal Palace accumulated a 29-4 edge in overall shots while keeping Joe Hart busy – the Burnley keeper finished with seven saves and has a Premier League-high 61.

It would not be surprising to see Dyche restore Sam Vokes as his centre-forward over Chris Wood considering the New Zealand international has gone three matches without a goal in the first XI.

The Clarets have just one win in eight top-flight matches (1-1-6) versus Liverpool, a 2-0 victory in 2016-17. Liverpool scratched out a 2-1 win in last season’s corresponding fixture, with defender Ragnar Klavan scoring the winner on 94 minutes.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Bet365, Liverpool are convincing 2/7 favourites to extend Burnley’s misery while remaining their stalking of Manchester City. The odds of the Clarets nicking a point from this contest are 19/4, and they are 13/1 longshots to claim all three points with a shock scoreline.

Oddsmakers are also expecting goals, with 8/13 odds listed for a total over 2.5 goals compared to 13/10 for finishing under that threshold. There also is not much faith in Burnley putting one past Alisson it seems since there are 4/6 odds for at least one clean sheet compared to 11/10 odds for both teams to score.

Salah leads the line for first goal-scorers at 12/5, followed by Daniel Sturridge (11/4). Origi’s late heroics have moved him to third on the list at 15/4, followed by Liverpool’s other primary strikers Firmino (4/1) and Mane (9/2). Shaqiri continues the list of Reds at 6/1, with the rested James Milner (9/1) and somewhat-rested Keita (11/1) also ahead of top Burnley options Ashley Wood, Matej Vydra and Chris Wood (12/1).

Salah, Sturridge, and Origi all are better than even money odds to score in this match, ranging from 4/7 to 20/21. Firmino (21/20) and Mane (6/5) are just off that level, with Shaqiri checking in at 13/8. Milner has 13/5 odds and Keita is 10/3. Burnley’s aforementioned trio are all 15/4 to provide a goal for the home supporters.

PREDICTION

While there is some concern about Liverpool potentially suffering a letdown after such a dramatic victory, there is also the matter of player rotation ahead of their Champions League showdown versus Napoli next Tuesday. The good news for Klopp is he will be able to rotate his side back and forth based on the two formations he has used, and he also has the depth in terms of bodies to make sure everyone is fresh to face the Italian side.

There will likely be at least four new faces in the starting XI, and it would not be surprising to see Klopp swap out both central defenders and go with Lovren and Joel Matip. There will also likely be room out wide for Alberto Moreno and Nathaniel Clyne over the next two matches as they will deputise for Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold. 

An entirely new midfield is not out of the question with Milner and Henderson fully fresh, and there will be some changes up front. Who, though, is anyone’s guess, but the expectation is Sturridge will lead the line for this match, and Origi possibly getting the start with Firmino coming off the bench.

While Burnley are in a relegation fight, it is wise to take a moment to compare the Clarets with one of their bottom three brethren in Southampton. The former have the iron will of Sean Dyche, who is not deluding himself or his side when it comes to the work that has to be done to climb upwards.

Contrast that with Southampton, now on their fourth manager in less than two seasons following the (overdue) sacking of Mark Hughes on Monday. The Saints appear to be a team that simply cannot get out of their own way, squandering points from a winning position more times than they care to admit.

Simply put, Burnley have to improve. At the same time, Dyche’s steadfastness and focus on the task at hand provides optimism they can. It may not happen in this match, but it does need to happen soon for the Clarets. The back four will be the key (or fault) for that revival, and even facing second-choice strikers in this contest will not do Burnley much good.

This is a match about small steps for the Clarets, and maybe they can steal a point if things break right. But the more important match comes this weekend at Brighton and Hove Albion, and winning that match starts with the small steps in this one.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Burnley 0, Liverpool 2.

OTHER EPL Match Day 15 Previews:
Bournemouth (6-2-6) vs. Huddersfield Town (2-4-8)
Watford (6-2-6) vs. Manchester City (12-2-0)
Wolverhampton (4-4-6) vs. Chelsea (9-4-1)
Manchester United (6-4-4) vs. Arsenal (9-3-2)

2018-19 EPL Match Day 14 Previews — Liverpool (10-3-0) vs. Everton (6-4-3)

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The 232nd edition of the Merseyside Derby on Sunday sees Liverpool looking to extend their unbeaten run at Anfield over Everton to 21 matches in all competitions, and Marco Silva making his derby debut with another opportunity to alter the Toffees’ culture against Big Six clubs on the road.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

Liverpool (10-3-0) have been nearly invincible at home this term, conceding just one goal in six league matches and dropping points only to frontrunners Manchester City in a scoreless draw. They have not trailed any point in those contests, and 14 of their 36 shots on target have found the back of the net.

Their mastery – and the misery of the Toffees – at Anfield, though, has existed for nearly a generation. Everton supporters have retreated across Stanley Park as blue as the colour of their shirt every season since Kevin Campbell’s fourth-minute strike stood as the match winner on Sept. 27, 1999.

Last season was a double dose as Everton (6-4-3) salvaged a 1-1 draw on a soft Wayne Rooney penalty in league play and then lost 2-1 in an unusually foul-tempered match in the third round of the FA Cup in which Virgil Van Dijk scored a late winner in his Liverpool debut. The drought at Anfield is now 20 matches (0-10-10) and the overall winless run versus Liverpool is 17 contests (0-8-9) as Silva gets his fourth crack at ending the club’s winless run at Big Six venues.

“Fear is something that doesn’t come inside our dressing room,” Silva said at his Friday news conference. “Respect, yes, but we… won’t change our ambition or style of play. It’s important to enjoy the moment and be strong. We want to win and nothing more.

“We will respect our opponents like we did against Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea.”

Everton’s scoreless draw at Stamford Bridge on Nov. 11 extended their victory drought at the Big Six grounds – Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United – to 31 matches (0-10-21) since Bryan Oviedo struck in the 86th minute for a 1-0 victory at Old Trafford on Dec. 4, 2013.

Seamus Coleman played right back in Everton’s last win over Liverpool – a 2-0 triumph Oct. 17, 2010, on goals by Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta – and he knows the Toffees are long past due to claim three points from their eternal rivals.

“It (our last win) was a long time ago and we need to look forward and we need to give the new players a bit of a taste of what it’s like to win one of these games, and the fans as well,” Coleman told SkySports. “It’s easy to come in here and say all the right things in an interview, I’m sure we have done over the last five or 10 years and not turned up on the day.

“We need to turn up on Sunday and do our talking on the pitch. This is a massive game for our city and we’ve been on the receiving end too many times, and there’ll be a few tackles going in this weekend but we’re looking forward to playing our game.”

Everton have no injury concerns as they seek back-to-back wins while pushing their unbeaten streak to four matches. The Toffees are also 4-1-1 since Silva shifted Richarlison from the left wing to centre forward in his 4-2-3-1 formation.

Liverpool are in need of righting themselves in the friendly confines of Anfield after yet more struggles on the road in Champions League play. Last season’s runners-up failed to take any points in their three group matches on the continent after Wednesday’s 2-1 loss at Paris-St. Germain.

Jurgen Klopp’s decision to move Joe Gomez from centre back to right back over Trent Alexander-Arnold for a more solid back four as Van Dijk paired with Dejan Lovren backfired as both of PSG’s goals in the opening 37 minutes originated down his flank. James Milner gave Liverpool a lifeline with a penalty before halftime, but an equaliser was never found as that was their only shot on target.

The defeat took Liverpool’s destiny out of their hands for their group finale at home versus Napoli as they are third on six points. They must beat the Italian side by either a 1-0 scoreline or two goals to advance.

Klopp, though, has quickly moved onto the derby match and seemed agitated when asked if entering the derby coming off a loss was an ideal way to play it.

“Why we would need a defeat in Paris to make sure we would be fully motivated for the Everton game,” said Klopp, who is 4-2-0 versus Everton, at his Friday news conference. “There’s no need for that. It is the game we have – and it is a special game, I have to say.

“Since I am in, it’s always felt it, it always was different in the preparation. The only bad thing is that we have never had really enough time to really prepare for it. You have a great game and then three days later you play the next game.”

Klopp will be forced into one change for this match as midfielder Jordan Henderson will serve his one-match ban for his two bookings in last weekend’s victory at Watford. He did not specify a replacement for his talisman since some players are still recovering from knocks suffered against PSG, but he does not lack for options with a well-rested Fabinho and Naby Keita, who had a late runout mid-week.

Liverpool native Alexander-Arnold is hoping to be restored at right back. The 20-year-old scored his first goal of the season at Watford and would cherish starting against Everton after making three appearances against them as a sub.

“Every Liverpool lad grows up dreaming of playing in a Merseyside derby. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” Alexander-Arnold told the Liverpool Echo. “This fixture always feel different to the rest. You can just feel it around the city. There’s a bit more tension and more excitement as you build towards the weekend.

“Everyone wants to do well. You know what it means to the supporters. It’s important for us to execute the game plan.”

Also of note is whether the manager will field his all-out offensive lineup in a 4-2-3-1 set-up like he did against the Hornets in contrast to the 4-3-3 versus PSG. The difference is Xherdan Shaqiri, who enters on the right wing in the former set-up while Mohamed Salah moves to centre-forward in front of Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane is on the left.

Salah scored in each of the last two matches when the 4-2-3-1 was utilised, and all four attacking players factored in four of the five goals scored versus Fulham and Watford.

Liverpool have 92 wins in the all-time series that dates back to 1894, while Everton have claimed 66 victories. The teams have shared the points on 73 occasions, including seven of the last 11 matchups.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Bet365, Liverpool are convincing 2/5 favourites to claim all three points in this Merseyside derby, while Everton are 8/1 underdogs to pull off a shock scoreline and make a short, yet happy trip back across town. The odds of the teams splitting the points falls in the middle at 4/1.

There are 8/13 odds the contest will feature more than 2.5 goals compared to 13/10 for a scoreline that adds up to less than that threshold. There also are 10/11 odds in both selections for both teams scoring or someone posting a clean sheet.

Unsurprisingly, Liverpool occupy the top five slots for considering a first goal-scorer. Salah leads the line at 13/5, followed by Daniel Sturridge (3/1), Firmino (9/2), Mane (5/1) and Shaqiri (6/1). Richarlison is the top option for Everton at 10/1, while the designated penalty taker for each team — Milner and Sigurdsson — offer 10/1 and 16/1 odds, respectively.

To score over the course of 90 minutes, Salah and Sturridge are better than even money at 4/6 and 8/11. Firmino is slightly off that pace at 6/5 but still ahead of Mane (11/8) and Shaqiri (13/8). Richarlison and Milner are both 3/1 picks for an any-time goal, while Toffees’ striker Cenk Tosun and Liverpool midfielder Naby Keita are 10/3 selections. Sigurdsson is 5/1, slightly behind Walcott and Liverpool right back Trent Alexander-Arnold.

PREDICTION

For the record, I am going to be very annoyed when Liverpool come out in a 4-2-3-1 formation for this match like my gut tells me they will as opposed to the 4-3-3 lineup graphic presented here.

Having said that, there is a lot of pressure on Liverpool to win this match. A lot. And it has little to do with the derby and the bragging rights that come with it. While asking Klopp about being “angry” coming into this match off a loss is a valid question, he was equally fair in shooting it down convincingly.

No, this is a rare moment when Klopp is coming off a defeat in which he got his personnel wrong with regards to Gomez, Lovren and Alexander-Arnold, and he needs to make it right. Ironically, the one who appears to have taken the loss the hardest is Van Dijk, but as others have noted, he has been so massive in the Premier League, that a slight dropoff in his level against an elite squad wound up being noticeable. The Dutch international will be fine.

Liverpool need a player who can spray balls through the middle of the field. Georginio Wijnaldum is not that player. Milner is not that player enough. Fabinho is not that player. Keita is not that player.

Of the 15 assists that have been recorded in league play on Liverpool’s 26 goals, the only player who is centrally located in the midfield is Milner. The three forwards themselves have six assists, and Robertson and Alexander-Arnold have combined for five while Shaqiri has two. There needs to be a variety of methods to score goals against bunkering and beyond set pieces and gegenpressing. That is why Shaqiri’s importance has been elevated — he carries the ball forward better than anyone Liverpool have in the midfield.

But the pressure on Liverpool in this match comes from having to at least equal how ever Manchester City thwack Bournemouth on Saturday. And each week Liverpool win but fall one goal short on the scoreline and miss out on that extra goal difference, it is another brick on their collective back. Eventually, the weight becomes too much to bear.

The good news for Liverpool, though, is that Everton do not have a midfield that will knock around their middle three. Oh yes, Gylfi Sigurdsson has a nasty competitive streak to him, but Andre Gomes does not cause a moment to pause. Idrissa Gueye does with 20 fouls and three yellow cards, but with the exception of Coleman — who would probably re-break his leg if it meant a derby win — there is no expectation of the game devolving into cynical tactics.

Everton have their own set of pressures to deal with in this match. To Silva’s credit, the Toffees have not looked out of their depth at Arsenal and at Chelsea this term, but a little iffy at Old Trafford. If anything, Everton gave as good as they got at Stamford Bridge, and that point from the scoreless draw was earned and not given.

Still, there are pressures. Not counting David Unsworth’s two caretaker spells, Silva is now the fourth different manager trying to get Everton’s first win versus Liverpool at any venue since David Moyes in 2010. And then you have to go back to Moyes’ predecessor Walter Smith for the last win at Anfield in 1999.

While Everton supporters are desperate for any victory over Liverpool, the actual pressure to deliver it here only rings internally. That 31-match albatross weighs more than trudging back across Stanley Park with another loss or another draw because then there are only two more chances to break it, and one of them is at the Etihad.

If Everton can stay true to themselves in the first half-hour, not lose their shape and keep their heads, they can get a result. It likely will not be a win, but a draw is definitely within reach. But this has the feel of a match with a painful lesson that the Toffees will draw on come spring when they are contending for a Europa League spot.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Liverpool 2, Everton 1.

OTHER EPL MATCH DAY 14 PREVIEWS:

Manchester City (11-2-0) vs. Bournemouth (6-2-5)
Southampton (1-5-7) vs. Manchester United (6-3-4)
Chelsea (8-4-1) vs. Fulham (2-2-9)
Arsenal (7-3-2) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (10-0-3)

2018-19 EPL Match Day 14 Preview — Manchester City (11-2-0) vs. Bournemouth (6-2-5)

There are many ways to describe Manchester City in glowing terms, but grit can now be added to that list of attributes heading into Saturday’s match at the Etihad versus Bournemouth.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

The reigning Premier League champions have trailed for 92 of a possible 1,800 minutes across all competitions this season, and only Wolverhampton have enjoyed a lead over Manchester City in league play – for all of 12 minutes. Yet for the second time in Champions League group play, Lyon gave Pep Guardiola’s team fits all over the pitch and twice grabbed leads through Maxwel Cornet.

The Citizens (11-2-0), though, showed they can take a punch and give one back as they equalised both times nearly straightaway in Tuesday’s 2-2 draw at the French side that secured a spot in the knockout round for the sixth straight year. Aymeric Laporte drew City level seven minutes after Cornet opened the scoring in the 55th, and Sergio Aguero nodded home Riyad Mahrez’s corner kick on 83 minutes, two after Cornet completed his brace.

“We are into the last 16,” Guardiola told City’s official website. “It’s so important at this time to be in the last 16. When you play against Lyon, it’s complicated because of how good they are. The level was quite similar across all the group that’s why starting with a 2-1 defeat at home to Lyon, we have made an excellent recovery in the past four games.

“Always you think ‘how will we react in that situation?’ (going behind) and always we have shown a huge personality.”

Manchester City will finish atop Group F if they get at least a draw in their final group game at home versus last-place Hoffenheim in a fortnight.

Last weekend’s 4-0 thrashing of West Ham United started a stretch in which City will play two matches per week over the next six weeks. That puts a premium on squad rotation, and even with City’s bottomless pockets to spend money, there are still personnel shortages.

Kevin DeBruyne and Benjamin Mendy are long-term absences due to injuries, while Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan are dealing with knocks and questionable for this match.

The most important spot, though, may be up front as Aguero has been healthy all season and already has 10 goals in 16 matches in all competitions after totaling 30 in 39 in an injury-plagued 2017-18. Gabriel Jesus, nursing a groin injury, could be one match away from getting a start after playing just nine minutes in the previous three matches following his hat trick against Shakhtar Donetsk on Nov. 7.

City have a perfect 100 percent record at the Etihad in league play, winning seven matches by a combined 27-4 scoreline while scoring at least two goals in every contest.

For Bournemouth (6-2-5), this is another chance for them to prove they are something more than a flat-track bully of the “Other 14” while being bullied by the “Big Six.” The Cherries fell to 0-0-3 against the perennials this term and have lost three on the spin following a 2-1 defeat at home to Arsenal last weekend.

An own goal by Jefferson Lerma on the half-hour put Bournemouth in an early hole, and after Joshua King pulled the Cherries level, Eddie Howe’s team conceded midway through the second half. Bournemouth sorely missed the calming presence of left back Adam Smith, who missed his first match with a knee injury expected to sideline him at least three months.

“Adam has been excellent over a long period of time,” Howe told the Bournemouth Echo. “He has great energy about him and enthusiasm for the game. He is an excellent trainer and very popular in the dressing room.

“It is a big miss for us. His versatility has been key in recent seasons. He has played in a number of positions and wherever he has played, he has performed at a high level.”

Howe must make at least one change for this match as Lerma also picked up his fifth yellow card of the season against Arsenal, triggering a one-match ban. Lewis Cook looks to be the most likely replacement for the Colombia international, but the Cherries could opt for a 3-4-3 formation in contrast to their usual 4-4-2 set-up to prevent City from overrunning the midfield.

Bournemouth have been a Jekyll-and-Hyde outfit outside Dean Court this season, outscoring teams 9-1 in victories at West Ham United, Watford, and Fulham while being outscored 8-1 in defeats to Chelsea, Burnley, and Newcastle United.

The Citizens have won all six matches between the teams since Bournemouth earned their initial promotion to the top flight for the 2015-16 season. All three games at the Etihad have been one-way affairs as City have smashed 13 by Bournemouth with only one in reply.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Bet365, City are 1/8 favourites to maintain their 100 percent record at the Etihad in league play, and the odds of the Cherries even nicking a point are 9/1. For those who believe in the fairy-tale ending of Bournemouth getting their first Premier League win over City, the odds are 25/1.

For the 2.5 goals over/under, the over has 1/4 odds while the under is 3/1.

Aguero leads the parade of City players for first-goal odds at 9/4, followed by Jesus (10/3) and Mahrez (4/1). Raheem Sterling, who has been a bogeyman for Bournemouth with nine goals and two assists during a six-match goal-scoring run against them, offers 9/2 odds to make it 1-0 for the hosts. Leroy Sane (11/2), David Silva (15/2) and Phil Foden (20/1) round out the Citizens’ option before getting to Bournemouth’s Callum Wilson at 14/1.

Aguero, Jesus, Mahrez and Sterling all are better than even money to score during the 90 minutes, ranging from Aguero’s 4/11 to Sterling’s 5/6. David Silva, who had a four-goal goal-scoring streak snapped at Lyon, has 8/5 odds. Wilson is again the top pick for the Cherries at 10/3, with veteran understudy Jermain Defoe (15/4) edging out Joshua King (5/1) for second.

PREDICTION

There are a few things that would not be surprising about this match for Manchester City. It would not be surprising if Vincent Kompany or Nicolas Otamendi get the start for John Stones in central defence, and even with that slight groin injury, Jesus could lead the line in this match.

It would also not be surprising for City to take about 15 minutes to shift through their gears after being pushed fairly hard by Lyon. After their first match versus the French side, City did not get their first goal against Cardiff City until 32 minutes had elapsed. After that, the floodgates opened and the Citizens scored four more.

With all the scrutiny that comes with City, perhaps the most impressive statistic is that they have trailed for only 12 minutes in league play, and it can be argued that goal Wolverhampton scored would have been overturned had VAR been in existence. City are 23-2-1 at the Etihad in league play since the start of last term, and the final 21 minutes they trailed in their eventual 3-2 loss to Manchester United are the lone minutes they have spent trailing in their last 18 matches at home.

For Bournemouth, the 0-0-3 record against the Big Six this season obscures the fact Eddie Howe’s team have been competitive in those matches and arguably deserved a point against United. Yet until the Cherries make that actual breakthrough — especially in the case against City as they have been little more than a speed bump to them at the Etihad — the perception of “good story and decent side” is going to persist regardless of their ambitions.

They have had their chances in each of these three big matches, but City are clearly operating on a different level than any of them. Expect that to continue as the Citizens stay perfect at the Etihad and against Bournemouth.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Manchester City 4, Bournemouth 0.

OTHER EPL MATCH DAY 14 PREVIEWS:

Southampton (1-5-7) vs. Manchester United (6-3-4)
Chelsea (8-4-1) vs. Fulham (2-2-9)
Arsenal (7-3-2) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (10-0-3)
Liverpool (10-3-0) vs. Everton (6-4-3)

Champions League Match Day 5 Preview — Paris-St. Germain (1-2-1, 5, +4) vs Liverpool (2-0-2, 6, +2)

Liverpool can potentially clinch a spot in the knockout round of the Champions League for a second successive season if they can complete the double over Paris-St. Germain on Wednesday at Parc des Princes and get a little bit of help.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

Jurgen Klopp’s side opened group play with a thrilling 3-2 victory at Anfield over the Ligue 1 leaders in September as Roberto Firmino’s goal in stoppage time the winner after PSG nearly escaped with a point after Kylian Mbappe’s equaliser on 83 minutes.

Yet therein, lies the rub for the Reds. They have played arguably their two worst matches of the season on the continent in group play, suffering a 1-0 loss at current Group D leaders Napoli and then a stunning 2-0 setback at Red Star earlier this month with a chance to put one foot through the door to reach the knockout round.

Liverpool can clinch a spot in the round of 16 with a victory and a win or draw by Napoli against Red Star.

“Two very ambitious teams will face each other in a very, very interesting competition, in an interesting situation in the group because we brought Belgrade back in the group [by losing in Serbia], so we go for everything and that’s how football should be,” Klopp said at Tuesday’s news conference. “Very often when you see groups after the draw you know immediately who will go through. The first two are pretty clear most of the time, but in this group it was clear from the beginning it was a difficult one and that’s it. We are here, we didn’t ever think negatively about it, we were looking forward to the game in Paris.”

Liverpool have won both their matches since the defeat to Red Star, recording clean sheet victories over Fulham and Watford, including a 3-0 romp past the latter at Vicarage Road last weekend. Mo Salah has scored in both contests and has five goals in his last five matches across all competitions, but the more welcome news was Firmino ending a four-match goalless drought with a marker right before the final whistle.

The match also showed what could be Klopp’s eventual evolution from a 4-3-3 set-up to a 4-2-3-1 formation in which Salah is the most forward striker and Firmino in the hole behind him flanked by Sadio Mane and Xherdan Shaqiri. It does not seem likely Liverpool will hold that formation for this match given PSG’s offensive prowess and Shaqiri’s ability to make a bigger impact in Champions League play given the style of competition, but Klopp has been pleased Firmino has adapted to the new role asked of him.

“In the last home game against Fulham, I had 20 German coaches in the stadium. Most of them were friends of mine, and I know them all,” Klopp told Liverpool’s official website. “They watched the game. I’m not sure what the critics were saying about Bobby Firmino after the game, but when I saw the coaches later and we had drinks together, they were like ‘Bobby Firmino… what a player!’

“It’s because of the small things he is doing, he is working hard, he is here, he is there, he has five goals now and he opens 5,000 gaps for everybody. It’s about how you see it.”

Klopp has a midfield that is almost 100 percent as Fabinho was the only regular who did not make the 21-man roster who traveled to Paris. But it will be the central defence pairing of Joe Gomez and Virgil Van Dijk who will likely be the most influential factors in whether Liverpool can shake off their road blues while wearing their trademark home red kits.

“We know they are top players – their strike force is something they are known worldwide for,” Gomez said. “As a team we just have to play our way. We have fundamentals that we stick to, that the gaffer gives us; we have to defend as a team regardless of who we’re playing.

“We do analysis and we have to prepare for different formations and different set-ups but our general philosophies in defending stay the same. That’s what we have to stick to.”

PSG could not figure out a way to beat Napoli as the two sides played to draws at both venues, and their Champions League play runs in stark contrast to their seeming invinicbility in Ligue 1. Les Parisiens retained their 100 percent record domestically last weekend with a 1-0 victory over Toulouse.

Thomas Tuchel held out both Neymar and Mbappe to let the superstars nurse injuries, and the third part of their potent strike force, Edinson Cavani, supplied the contest’s only goal in the ninth minute. It was the ninth goal in as many league matches for the Uruguay international, whose 10 overall goals are third behind the pair’s 13 apiece.

Both players are expected to be in PSG’s first XI for this game, but Teuchel believes his defence is going to be as important, if not more, to the chances of the French club’s side of getting through to the round of 16.

“The key will be to defend well against Liverpool’s attacking trio, that’s always difficult because they can change position. Firmino can play everywhere, he’s fluid, able to change rhythm,” Tuchel said.  “They can also play in 4-4-2, but that doesn’t change much in terms of their structure or their approach to the game.

“It’s necessary for us to play with confidence and play attacking football and have the desire to win. The ball has to move around quickly, we have to take the right decisions quickly, and we have to limit the number of touches in our opponents’ half.”

PSG will have at least two notable changes from the reverse fixture as keeper Gianluigi Buffon and midfielder Marco Verratti are expected to be in the starting XI. Buffon served a suspension for his red card while with Juventus as they lost to eventual champions Real Madrid in the second leg of last year’s Champions League semifinals while Verratti served a one-match ban for his two yellow cards accrued in PSG’s second-leg exit to the reigning three-time champions in the round of 16.

Liverpool will conclude their group play at home versus Napoli, while PSG caps their six group play matches at last-place Red Star.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Ladbrokes, PSG are firm favourites to hold serve and claim all three points with 11/10 odds, while Liverpool are a 21/10 pick to return to Anfield with a vital three road points. The odds of the sides splitting the points and contributing to a free-for-all in the final match day are 27/10.

The French side have 9/5 odds on winning with more than 2.5 goals scored, while a like result for Liverpool offers 16/5 odds. A 0-0 or 1-1 draw is the next-most likely outcome according to the oddsmakers with 19/4 odds, while PSG get 11/2 odds for a 1-0 or 2-0 victory compared to Liverpool’s 17/2 for the same such results.

PSG’s attacking trio of Mbappe, Neymar and Cavani are all joint-top options to open the scoring at 9/2, while Liverpool’s trident of Salah (5/1), Mane (7/1) and Firmino (15/2) are joined by teammate Daniel Sturridge (6/1). Angel Di Maria is a distant fourth option for Les Parisiens at 10/1, which is also 10th overall.

Surprisingly, no one is better than even money to score a goal in this match, with Neymar and Mbappe joint top at 5/4 and Cavani just off their pair at 11/8. Salah is 7/5 to lead Liverpool’s options, trailed by Sturridge (7/4), Mane (21/10) and Firmino (11/5). Expected to come off the bench because Klopp is likely to use a 4-3-3, Shaqiri offers a 10/3 return to score during the contest.

PREDICTION

First off, is there anyone who really thought Mbappe and Neymar would not play in this match? Ok, just wanted to get that out of the way. Onto the match.

Though it sounds like hyperbole, it does not feel out of place to say Liverpool’s season could hinge on getting at least one point from this contest. No one will say it out loud, but there has to be a certain amount of exhaustion and frustration chasing Manchester City in the Premier League. Yes, Liverpool are just two points behind the reigning champions, but how quickly do good feelings wash away after a 3-0 road victory when scoreboard watching reveals a 4-0 victory by City?

In this competition, Liverpool only have themselves to blame for what could be a potentially disastrous plight. The Reds should have taken at least one point from their other two road contests and clearly played below their capabilities in both contests against sides they were perceived to be better than or, at worst, equal to.

Paris-Saint Germain, it can be argued, are a side better than Liverpool. They are unbeaten in 12 (10-2-0) since the loss to Liverpool and have conceded just seven goals in those contests. The trip of Neymar, Mbappe and Cavani have accounted for 24 in that span. And while Liverpool have a good amount of pressure on them to return to the Champions League knockout round, it still dwarves the amount on Les Parisiens, who in some ways have become France’s answer to Manchester City as an ultra-rich squad who have yet to crack Europe’s true elite.

It says a lot Buffon is going to get the start in this match over Alphonse Arreola, having appeared in only one other Champions League match for the side, their 1-1 draw at Napoli in which the Italian side scored their lone goal from the spot. This could be Buffon’s last go-round at the one trophy which has eluded him all these years, and the self-applied pressure could also factor here.

This is a game that could be played in fits and spurts, where individual defensive breakdowns lead to goals scored. The winner of this match is who will have the lesser amount, and given Liverpool’s road form in this group, it is hard to imagine PSG not getting the inside track to advancing with a victory here.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Paris-St. Germain 2, Liverpool 1.

OTHER CHAMPIONS LEAGUE MATCH DAY 5 PREVIEWS:

Lyon (1-3-0, 6, +1) vs. Manchester City (3-0-1, 9, +9)
Manchester United (2-1-1, 7, +2) vs. Young Boys (0-1-3, 1, -8)
Tottenham Hotspur (1-1-2, 4, -2) vs. Inter Milan (2-1-1, 7, 0)