2018-19 EPL Match Day 23 Preview — Liverpool (18-3-1) vs. Crystal Palace (6-4-12)

Liverpool’s depth along the back line will be severely tested once more Saturday at Anfield versus Crystal Palace as they must make do without right back Trent Alexander-Arnold.

POTENTIAL STARTING XI

The Premier League leaders already are without defenders Joe Gomez and Dejan Lovren through injury, which has resulted in defensive midfielder Fabinho pairing with Virgil Van Dijk in central defence for the Reds (18-3-1). Alexander-Arnold joined the list of the walking wounded with an ankle injury that is expected to sideline him at least one month.

The 20-year-old suffered the injury in the warm-ups prior to Liverpool’s 1-0 victory at Brighton and Hove Albion but played the full 90 minutes. He is expected to be back in time for the Merseyside club’s first-leg round of 16 Champions League tie versus Bayern Munich in February.

The timing of the injury, however, is sub-optimal. The decision to loan out right back Nathaniel Clyne to Bournemouth is now under scrutiny, and while Joel Matip may be available for selection at centre back in this game, it would appear more likely midfielder James Milner will be deputising for Alexander-Arnold.

“We have not a massive squad at the moment in training, but they are not out for long,” gaffer Jurgen Klopp told the Evening Standard recently. “It’s not cool in this moment but in probably two weeks it looks completely different and I cannot make a decision for today and then in two weeks I created a problem with my decision today. We are fine.”

Of course, things are much easier when having Mo Salah as a potential eraser to all those defensive concerns on the other end of the pitch. The Egypt international’s earned penalty and subsequent conversion on 50 minutes separated Liverpool from Brighton and was his ninth-match winner of the season.

More importantly, Liverpool maintained their four-point lead atop the table over reigning champions Manchester City, who dealt Klopp’s side their only defeat to date.

“In my mind and all of the lads’ minds is just: ‘Take it game by game,'” captain Jordan Henderson told the team’s official website. “That’s all we can do and is what we have been doing up to this point – so why change it?

“The next game is the biggest game of the season, that’s how we look at it, and it’s a tough one again next week. We will keep taking it game by game and come the end of the season, let’s see where we are.”

Henderson may have a new partner in defensive midfield with Giorginio Winaldum battling a knock of his own. With Fabinho likely on the back four, Naby Keita is the most likely swap for Klopp there, though James Milner is also a potential replacement.

Salah has scored eight goals in his last nine matches in all competitions, his blistering form an omen for a Crystal Palace team expected to start third-choice keeper Julian Speroni in this match. The 39-year-old Speroni has not appeared in a league match since a 3-2 loss to Arsenal on Dec. 28, 2017, and has not won a Premier League match since a 3-0 win at Leicester City 12 days before that.

Vincent Guaita was forced off at halftime due to injury, and Wayne Hennessey – still under fire for an alleged Nazi salute that was caught on camera and spread on social media – was decisively subpar on goals allowed seven minutes apart in the second half of a 2-1 home loss to Watford.

“He didn’t have a lot to do, did he? It’s difficult to assess a goalkeeper’s performance when, really, he didn’t actually make any saves. So he did OK,” Hodgson told The Times before backing the Wales international regarding his social media flap.

“He’s made it perfectly clear it was an innocent gesture, it was nothing to do with what people are trying to link it to,” the Palace boss added. “We are more than happy to accept that, particularly knowing the man as he is and knowing he is totally incapable of any racist or inflammatory gestures. You’re asking me, can I turn back the tide of social media and your media and erase that? No, I can’t erase it but the fact is I’ve never given it more than a few seconds’ thought.”

Palace (6-4-12) scored courtesy an own goal by Watford defender Craig Cathcart as they were denied a third win on the bounce in all competitions. Jordan Ayew had scored in the previous two matches before last weekend’s loss, but Wilfried Zaha’s goal drought has reached 15 matches in league play. Five of Luka Milivojevic’s team-best six goals in league play have come from the spot.

The Eagles have been a far better outfit on the road than at home, claiming 13 of their 22 points while going 4-1-6 and matching their road win total for all of last term. They are seeking their first three-match road winning streak in Premier League play since victories at Burnley, Leicester City and West Ham United in 2014-15.

Liverpool have won three on the trot over Palace and posted a workmanlike 2-0 win at Selhurst Park in the reverse fixture. Milner converted a penalty right before halftime and Sadio Mane secured the win in second-half stoppage time.

The Eagles, though, have enjoyed success recently at Anfield. They had won their three prior visits before last season’s 1-0 defeat.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Bet365, Liverpool are 2/11 favourites to open a provisional seven-point lead atop the table with a victory while Crystal Palace are 16/1 underdogs to pull off a shock scoreline and continue their recent run of success at Anfield. The odds of the sides splitting the points are 7/1.

Oddsmakers are expecting a glut of goals in this one, with 8/15 odds on clearing the 2.5-goal threshold compared to 6/4 for another 2-0 scoreline or lower. There are 8/13 odds on there being a clean sheet in this match, likely by Liverpool, compared to a 6/5 offering on both teams scoring a goal.

Salah leads a lengthy list of Liverpool players for first-goal odds, checking in at 13/5. The understudys — Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi — are 3/1 and 4/1, respectively, while Sadio Mane and Firmino are both 4/1 options. Xherdan Shaqiri is a 5/1 pick to make it 1-0 for the hosts while Milner gets some play at 10/1. Ex-Liverpool striker Christian Benteke is Palace’s top option at 16/1 for the opening goal, joined by Zaha.

Salah is a 4/7 choice to score over the course of the match, with Sturridge lurking close at 4/6. Origi, Mane and Firmino are all better than even money at 20/21, and Shaqiri is just off that standard at 5/4. Benteke and Zaha are 9/2 choices, while Palace penalty-taker Milivojevic is a 15/2 option.

PREDICTION

While Liverpool are heavy favourites for this game, one only has to go back to their last legitimate title challenge five years ago to have nightmares about Crystal Palace. Chasing Manchester City and needing to overcome goal difference, Liverpool went for broke up 3-0 at Selhurst Park to try and cut into that gap.

Instead, it ended in tears for Luis Suarez as Palace took full advantage of a suddenly frenetic end-to-end match, scoring three goals after the 79th minute from Damien Delaney and Dwight Gayle — who had a brace — to salvage a draw and effectively ending Liverpool’s hopes for a first title since 1990.

This time around, dropped points will not directly result in such a drastic outcome, but with City breathing down their necks, every game is a referendum on the state of Liverpool as squeaky bum time draws closer and closer. The Reds have done themselves no favours by loaning out Clyne giving their spate of injuries at the back, but since Milner has played right back on a few occasions this term, Klopp has far worse options than his converted midfielder at the moment.

Benteke’s expected return to Palace’s starting XI brings some intrigue to the match as a washout from his days at Liverpool, where he totaled 10 goals in 42 matches across all competitions in 2015-16 and never lived up to the lofty expectations he created after a three-season run at Aston Villa produced 42 league goals.

When healthy and on his game, Benteke can be menacing — he scored 15 goals for Palace in 2016-17. He was anything but that last term, totaling three in 31 and failing to find the back of the net in five league matches this season before getting hurt.

The keys will be the interplay Benteke has with Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend, as well as the service Milivojevic can provide through the middle. Palace did not play all that badly against Liverpool in the reverse fixture at Selhurst Park, with the breakdowns that led to Liverpool’s goals coming at the end of each half.

Still, Anfield is an entirely different animal, even if Palace have been a surprising bogey team for Liverpool there. Every week the challenge remains for Liverpool: Are they different than Premier League title contenders of years past? For this week, at least, expect that answer to be yes.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Liverpool 3, Crystal Palace 0.

OTHER EPL MATCH DAY 23 PREVIEWS:

Wolverhampton (8-5-9) vs. Leicester City (9-4-9)
Manchester United (12-5-5) vs. Brighton and Hove Albion (7-5-10)
Southampton (4-7-11) vs. Everton (8-6-8)
Arsenal (12-5-5) vs. Chelsea (14-5-3)

2018-19 EPL Match Day 22 Preview — Brighton and Hove Albion (7-5-9) vs. Liverpool (17-3-1)

2019 has gotten off to a rotten start for Liverpool.

Denied in a bid to run away with the Premier League race and sent tumbling out of the FA Cup, Jurgen Klopp’s side look to stop the rot Saturday with a tricky tie at the AMEX against a Brighton and Hove Albion side playing some of their best football of the season.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

Liverpool (17-3-1) were thwarted in their chance to open a 10-point chasm on the reigning titleholders as they fell 2-1 at Manchester City on Jan. 3. The Reds were unfortunate not to go up a man just after the half-hour when Vincent Kompany was only booked for a harsh challenge on Mohamed Salah, but they were also chasing the match for most of the 90 minutes.

Roberto Firmino gave Liverpool hope for a point with an equaliser on 64 minutes to cancel out Sergio Aguero’s first-half goal, but Leroy Sane scored eight minutes later for the hosts, who clawed within four points of the top spot and overtook Tottenham Hotspur – another two points further adrift – for third.

The intensity of that clash led Klopp to overturning all but two of his starting XI for Monday’s third-round FA Cup tie at Wolverhampton. An omen of things to come came in the sixth minute when centre back Dejan Lovren – a position Liverpool are already thin at – was forced off with a hamstring injury on six minutes.

The teams traded goals around halftime, but Ruben Neves’ long-range strike on 55 minutes proved decisive in a 2-1 defeat to the promoted side, leaving Liverpool with “just” the Premier League and Champions League trophies to play for between now and June.

“We have to make sure we bounce back and look at where we can get better,” midfielder James Milner told the club’s official website. “You’re never going to go a full season without having blips. I think at the start of this season we weren’t playing our best but we were getting results. (It’s) back-to-back defeats now, which really isn’t good enough for us, but you have blips in a season. It’s about how you respond.

“I think you’ve seen the character in the squad in the last few years, and the players we have, to know we will bounce back. We have to show that, though. It’s easy saying it in an interview, we have to do it on the pitch at the weekend.”

How Klopp fills Lovren’s absence at centre back will be something to watch. The Croatia international was behind Joe Gomez on the pecking order of centre back partners with Virgil Van Dijk, who himself is questionable for this match due to an illness.

Gomez is out injured, and while the FA Cup was an opportune moment to blood 16-year-old Ki-Jana Hoever as an understudy there, the teen is not expected to be on a league team sheet any time soon. The most likely option for Klopp is to drop defensive midfielder Fabinho into a pairing with Van Dijk should he be available.

Whether this is indeed a “blip” as Milner says or something larger could rest on Liverpool’s attacking trio of Firmino, Salah and Sadio Mane. Firmino finally found his form with his hat trick versus Arsenal and followed that up with a well-done finish versus City.

Salah and Mane both scored against the Gunners, so they are not slumping, but whether the trio can re-ignite at last term’s pace to take the pressure off Van Dijk and the back line remains to be seen.

Brighton and Hove Albion (7-5-9) have quietly put themselves in solid mid-table footing and are 13th on 26 points, 10 clear of the drop. The Seagulls are 2-2-0 in their last four matches in all competitions and avenged their most recent defeat Saturday with a 3-1 win at Bournemouth in a third-round FA Cup tie.

Anthony Knockaert’s first goal in 12 matches swung that match in Brighton’s favour minutes after Bournemouth should have taken the lead through Lys Mousset. Yves Bissouma added his first goal of the term three minutes after Knockaert struck, and Florian Andone completed Brighton’s first three-goal effort since early December with a header on a corner just after the hour.

“I’d certainly rather be going into the game in good form than in bad form,” manager Chris Hughton told the club’s official website. “At the moment, playing at home to Man City or Liverpool are the toughest games you can play. They will be big favourites, as everybody would imagine, and it will be us doing as well as we can on the day.

“In this game, people won’t expect us to get anything and anything we do get will be a bonus.”

Hughton was not exempt from injury woes for this match as left back Bernardo has been ruled out with a hamstring injury. Winger Jose Izquerido is also sidelined with a knee injury while attacking winger Ali Jahanbakhsh and first-choice keeper Mat Ryan are  representing Iran and Australia, respectively, at the Asian Cup.

The Seagulls showed plenty of fight in the reverse fixture, falling 1-0 at Anfield where Salah slotted home on 23 minutes. Brighton nearly nicked a point late, but Pascal Gross’ 88th-minute header was stopped by Alisson.

Liverpool have won all three top-flight matches since Brighton won promotion last season and rolled to a 5-1 victory at the Amex in 2017-18 behind a brace from Firmino.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Bet365, Liverpool are solid 3/10 favourites to get back on track in league play and pick up a victory. There are 5/1 odds on a draw, and Brighton are 10/1 underdogs to pull off a shock scoreline with a second-choice keeper and extend Liverpool’s recent misery.

There are 8/11 odds on the teams combining for more than 2.5 goals while there are 11/10 odds on the teams being under that threshold for the second time this season. Oddsmakers are also expecting another clean sheet in Liverpool’s favour, with 8/13 odds on one team being held off the scoreboard compared to 6/5 odds both teams will get a goal.

Salah leads the line for first-goal scorers at 11/4, heading a list of nine Liverpool players before finding the first Brighton option in Glenn Murray at 10/1. Firmino and Mane are both 9/2 picks to make a 0-1 scoreline, trailing Reds reserve strikers Daniel Sturridge (3/1) and Divock Origi (4/1). Shaqiri lurks as an 11/2 option to open the scoring.

For 90-minute goal-scorers, Salah (8/11) and Sturridge (5/6) are both better than even money to bag a goal, with Firmino offering 13/10 odds along with Mane. Shaqiri is a 13/8 pick, and even Liverpool midfielder Adam Lallana at 3/1 rates above Murray (10/3) in terms of scoring during the match.

PREDICTION

This match would have been far more intriguing had first-choice Brighton keeper Mat Ryan not left for the Asian Cup to represent the Socceroos. The Seagulls have proven a tough out at home against the Big Six, knocking off Manchester United and drawing Arsenal. They also have a victory over Everton at home and will certainly be no pushovers as they sit back, try to absorb pressure, and hit on the counter.

But this match is about Liverpool. They have answered a challenge before in needing a result to advance in the Champions League, but they also had the luxury of playing that crunch match at home. This is a third consecutive match on the road for the Reds, essentially trying out a defensive midfielder in the centre back position in Fabinho, and Van Dijk may not be 100 percent due to illness.

The good news for Liverpool is Firmino is in form, and Salah has been in form for an extended period of time. This is one of those matches where a moment of magic on set-ball pieces from Shaqiri is what Klopp’s side need to make a difference in this contest. Brighton rarely beat themselves, though Trent Alexander-Arnold could alsomake a huge impact on the right as he takes on Bernardo’s expected replacement Gaetan Bong.

This one may not be settled till the final half-hour, but this is where the championship mettle of Liverpool delivers a needed result.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Brighton and Hove Albion 0, Liverpool 2.

OTHER EPL MATCH DAY 22 PREVIEWS:

West Ham United (8-4-9) vs. Arsenal (12-5-4)
Leicester City (9-4-8) vs. Southampton (3-7-11)
Chelsea (13-5-3) vs. Newcastle United (4-6-11)
Tottenham Hotspur (16-0-5) vs. Manchester United (11-5-5)

 

 

2018-19 EPL Match Day 21 Preview — Manchester City (15-2-3) vs. Liverpool (17-3-0)

Last season’s Manchester City side are considered one of the best all-time in English football history. Yet if the defending champions cannot at least draw current table-toppers Liverpool at the Etihad on Thursday, there is the very real chance they could be second to the Reds in history’s annals come May.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

The first 100-point side in Premier League history, Manchester City (15-2-3) set a host of league records as they won the title by 19 points over eternal rivals Manchester United. Liverpool were a respectable fourth but gained plaudits by eliminating City over two legs in the Champions League quarterfinals en route to a runners-up finish to Real Madrid.

Liverpool (17-3-0) addressed their shortcomings in the offseason, most notably between the sticks with the acquisition of AS Roma keeper Alisson, and also added bargain-signing Xherdan Shaqiri as a change-of-pace offensive option. Midfield newcomers Fabinho and Naby Keita have teamed with towering centre back Virgil Van Dijk to transform Liverpool from a team who needed to outscore opponents to one who can suffocate them if needed.

“City is a game that we want to win,” Van Dijk told Liverpool’s official website. “It will be very hard, very tough, but for them as well. It’s going be a good match, but it is not a decisive game or something like that. We are not going to treat it different to any other.

“We will be prepared for a very tough game. Confidence is definitely here, but it can change over a couple of games. We won’t get carried away. We need to keep doing what we have been doing.”

Jurgen Klopp’s front-running side have conceded a league-low eight goals – eight fewer than joint-second City and Chelsea. They have recorded 12 clean sheets – already more than the 10 registered in their last serious title challenge under Brendan Rodgers in 2013-14.

Though people are quick to point out Liverpool are the only team leading at Christmas not to win the Premier League title the past nine seasons (2013-14 and 2008-09), Klopp insists his side are only focused on the singular task of winning this contest and not the reward of a seemingly insurmountable 10-point gap a victory would provide.

“We don’t think about the gap, not for a second. What we think about is 54 points – unbelievable, to be honest. That’s really strange and feels strange,” Klopp said, well aware his side are on pace to top 100 points like City did last term. “All we can do is keep going; recover first of all, that’s very important, and then prepare the next game.

“We all know, wow, Man City are a fantastic football team and an away game at City – who can go there and think ‘Probably we will win’? No team in the world, not even us. So we have to go there and try everything to get a result. That’s what we will try.”

Liverpool gained a measure of revenge against one of the three teams to hold them to a draw in the first go-round, swatting Arsenal aside 5-1 at Anfield on Saturday. After falling behind at home for the first time in league play – Liverpool have trailed at Anfield for all of seven minutes in all competitions – Roberto Firmino ended a goal drought that dated back to Dec. 5 with two goals three minutes apart. The second goal by the Brasil international was a slalom through a sea of weak Arsenal challenges before beating Bernd Leno.

Mohamed Salah set up a goal for Sadio Mane before converting a penalty in first-half stoppage time. The Egypt international then made a classy gesture early in the second half, stepping aside for another penalty attempt to let Firmino complete his hat trick. Having Firmino in form is an ominous sign for City considering the trio scored seven of Liverpool’s nine goals in the four matches between the teams last season.

Klopp will once again have to decide between using a 4-3-3 and a 4-2-3-1. Fabinho and Keita have a good partnership as defensive midfielders, but the manager does not lack for options as he can also turn to James Milner and Giorginio Wijnaldum in a mix of potential midfield combinations.

Manchester City gained a semblance of their swagger back last time out with a 3-1 victory at Southampton on Sunday. The match swung late in the first half when an own goal by Saints’ James Ward-Prowse off a shot by Rahem Sterling snapped a tie late in the first half, and Sergio Aguero added a tally right before the halftime whistle in stoppage time.

But what gave City confidence for this match was the return of central midfielder Fernandinho, who was sorely missed in their losses to Leicester City and Crystal Palace. The Brasil international served as a disruptive force in repelling Southampton’s attacks, which in turn allowed City’s attack to pour forward with their usual menace as David Silva scored his first goal since returning from injury and his ninth in all competitions.

Aguero has been a pest to Liverpool, especially at the Etihad – the Argentina international has scored in all six home games versus the Reds for City. One goal shy of 250 for his career, Aguero is willing to give Liverpool their due but also wants his side to be true to themselves in this crunch clash.

“Liverpool’s growth as a team can be tracked from a few years back,” the striker noted to City’s official website. “Their showing in the Champions League was a testament of that, and they are performing very well this Premier League season.

“But our focus should be on our own game. We are confident in our playing style and we believe it’s the most effective to lead us to victory. There’s no denying it is a huge game for both clubs. Direct clashes between leading teams have a major impact towards the end of the season.”

City manager Pep Guardiola has some injury concerns, most notably with attacking midfielder Kevin De Bruyne as he was held out of Sunday’s match as a precaution with a knock. Tactically, Guardiola must figure out who he wants at left back with Fabian Delph serving the second of his three-match ban for a red card on Boxing Day.

Oleksandr Zinchenko looked out of his depth there versus Southampton, getting dispossessed on the play that led directly to Southampton’s goal. Guardiola could move Danilo from right back to left while restoring Kyle Walker to his usual spot at right back.

If De Bruyne cannot play, Bernardo Silva would likely be on the right of Fernandinho in City’s 4-3-3 set-up.

The teams played to a cagey scoreless draw at Anfield, though City let Liverpool off the hook on 86 minutes when Riyad Mahrez blasted his penalty into the crowd on the Anfield End. For all the offensive fireworks these clubs provide, both teams rarely pushed their wide backs forward as a means of neutralizing the pace of the other.

In addition to the Champions League quarterfinal sweep, Liverpool have been a bogey team for City and are 7-3-1 in the last 11 overall meetings between the clubs. The Citizens’ lone win was a 5-0 thrashing of 10-man Liverpool at home last term, with Gabriel Jesus and Leroy Sane bagging braces after Mane was given a straight red card on 37 minutes for a reckless challenge on City keeper Ederson.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Bet365, Manchester City are even-money favourites to deal Liverpool their first loss, while the Reds are 12/5 underdogs to claim all three points and create a seemingly insurmountable 10-point gap between the sides. There are 11/4 odds on the teams splitting the points to maintain the status quo.

The scoreless draw in the reverse fixture has put no fear in oddsmakers expecting goals, with 8/15 odds on there being more than 2.5 goals compared to 6/4 odds for another such result under the threshold. There are 1/2 odds for both teams to score in this contest compared to 6/4 odds on one of them being held off the scoreboard for the second time this season.

Aguero leads the line for first goal-scorer options at 10/3, trailed by Jesus (9/2). Salah rounds out the top three at 5/1, with understudy Daniel Sturridge 11/2 and City attacking winger Sterling at 6/1. Mahrez and Divock Origi are both 7/1 options, with Liverpool attacking players Firmino and Mane are both at 15/2. City winger Sane is 8/1, and Shaqiri is a step back at 9/1.

Despite the top-draw defences of both sides, Aguero does rate better than even money to score over the course of 90 minutes with 4/5 odds, while Jesus is an 11/10 pick and Salah checks in at 5/4. Sturridge (7/5) and Sterling (8/5) round out the top five, while Origi and Mahrez are paired together at 15/8. Mane and Firmino also rate as equals at 2/1, with Sane (11/5) and Shaqiri (5/2) a step back. David Silva and De Bruyne are both 11/4 picks to bag a goal.

PREDICTION

Here is the £64,000 question: Is the scoreless draw in October between the two sides the anomaly of their last five matches or the expected outcome?

The 5-0 City rout in last season’s corresponding fixture has to be taken with an asterisk since Liverpool played nearly two-thirds of the match with 10 men and the score was only 1-0 when Mane was sent off. The reverse fixture at Anfield in 2017-18 was marked by a nine-minute thunderclap of three Liverpool goals in the second half before City frantically scrambled to get two back and nearly steal a point.

What seems abundantly clear, however, is Klopp is in the head of the usually unflappable Guardiola. There is still the lament for Guardiola not staying true to his ethos in last season’s first-leg Champions League tie at Anfield in choosing Ilkay Gundogan over Sterling and paying the heaviest of prices with a goal deficit too large to overcome at the Etihad.

In October, Guardiola was content to defuse Liverpool. The result was a dour match in which there were 13 shots combined. To put that number in perspective, consider Klopp’s team alone have attempted 13 or more shots in 14 of their 20 league contests while City have unloaded 13 or more in all but three league contests.

This time, City cannot afford to sit back. Must it be an all-out attack from kickoff? No. But there is most certainly going to be an urgency to finding a goal first. To fall behind 0-1 in this contest early could very well be game over, title race over because Liverpool can carve open any team on the counter regardless of quality of opponent.

While the above projects Liverpool to the 4-2-3-1 set-up Klopp has veered to of late in league play, it would not be all that surprising to see him revert to the 4-3-3 for two reasons. One is another midfielder — most likely James Milner if 100 percent — to help check on David Silva and/or De Bruyne should the latter be available for selection or even a start.

The second, though, is that formation lets Salah be the person who tries to run City’s left back — most likely Danilo — into the ground as opposed to having the Egypt international lead the line with Shaqiri on the wing. It also lets Klopp keep some of his powder dry with Shaqiri being the first option off the bench in the event he has find an equaliser in the final 15-20 minutes.

Also in the spotlight to a degree for Liverpool will be right back Trent Alexander-Arnold, who watched the reverse fixture from the bench as Joe Gomez got the start. The 20-year-old has quietly evolved into a solid two-way player — though it also helps Liverpool often have overwhelming amounts of possession — after picking up three yellow cards in his first three matches.

This has the feel of a match where graft may be a higher premium than skill. While every player will display it in spades in this contest, it may also be one where Aguero finds yet another way to score against Liverpool — perhaps one that restores a proper Premier League title chase.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Manchester City 2, Liverpool 1.

OTHER EPL MATCH DAY 21 PREVIEWS:

Arsenal (11-5-4) vs. Fulham (3-5-12)
Chelsea (13-4-3) vs. Southampton (3-6-11)
Wolverhampton (8-5-7) vs. Crystal Palace (5-4-11)
Newcastle United (4-6-10) vs. Manchester United (10-5-5)

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 — 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 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)

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)