Big Match Focus: Liverpool vs Manchester City

Manchester City and Liverpool meet in the most anticipated match of the Premier League season to date as the top two fight for clear air.

Jurgen Klopp has defeated Pep Guardiola seven times in his career, more than any other manager.   -  Getty Images

The knockout blow in the Premier League title race will arrive some way into the future but it is hard not to consider the wider ramifications on this weekend's top-of-the-table clash. Manchester City edged back to the summit on goal difference last weekend thanks to Liverpool's draw at Chelsea.

Now, with both clubs unbeaten and level on 19 points, a victory either way at Anfield on Sunday could have a long-lasting influence on the destination of the silverware. The scene is set for another blockbuster in keeping with the fireworks this fixture has thrown up in recent times.

REDS CHASE CALENDAR QUARTET

Liverpool has the chance to join Grimsby Town (1936) and Tottenham (1993) among a select group of clubs to have beaten City four times in a single calendar year.

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The first was a thrilling 4-3 home success in January before twin victories in the Champions League quarter-finals boosted Jurgen Klopp's career wins against Pep Guardiola to seven, more than any other manager.

Guardiola's first defeat to the former Borussia Dortmund boss in English football was on his only other league trip to Liverpool, Georginio Wijnaldum netting an early winner in December 2016.

Lose again on Sunday and the Catalan will have dropped three consecutive away games against the same club for the first time in his managerial career.

FORM GUIDE

Both clubs boast six victories and a draw from their opening seven fixtures, making this match the latest any two unbeaten teams have met in the Premier League since the 2011-12 season.

Liverpool's run came close to ending at Chelsea before Daniel Sturridge's stunning late equaliser salvaged a 1-1 draw, although it was not enough to keep it from handing top spot to City.

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An untroubled 2-0 defeat of Brighton and Hove Albion made the champion's weekend somewhat more serene and it has now strung together four on the trot in the top flight, scoring 12 and conceding just once in the process.

Mohamed Salah's performance will be closely observed, the reigning Golden Boot winner having netted just once in his past four Premier League appearances.

PLAYER HEAD-TO-HEAD (Roberto Firmino v Sergio Aguero)

Aguero boosted his tally to five goals in seven appearances last weekend and is now two short of becoming the ninth player to score 150 in the Premier League. That milestone, however, appears unlikely to be reached at Anfield, where the 30-year-old is scoreless in all nine of his competitive matches.

It will be fascinating to juxtapose his performance with that of Firmino, with whom he shares a position and not much else. The most obvious difference between the pair is the raw running Firmino undertakes for his team-mates: the Brazil striker covers an average of 11.14 kilometres per match, well above Aguero's 9.61.

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Firmino, the central figure in an explosive Liverpool front three, also puts in 17.18 sprints on average, some way ahead of his City counterpart's 11.16. Those figures also illustrate the Argentine's role as a pure predator in the penalty area.

Aguero has had 60 touches in the opposition box this season and is converting 75 per cent of his big chances, far outweighing Firmino's comparatively paltry 20 per cent.

HISTORY SAYS...

It will be very difficult for City to return to Manchester with three points. It has failed to win at Anfield with their last 17 attempts in all competitions, drawing five and losing 12 of those.

The Reds, meanwhile, are unbeaten in their last 24 home league games, and have not conceded in any of the last eight.

Perhaps most encouraging for Liverpool is that it has not lost any of its last 13 home league games against fellow 'big six' sides, winning six and drawing seven.