Big Match Focus: Liverpool vs Manchester City

Manchester City's surge towards the Premier League title faces a potential stumbling block against Liverpool.

Sunday's clash between Liverpool and Manchester City will see Mohamed Salah, who has scored 17 goals this season, face-off against Raheem Sterling, who has shone with 14 goals for City.   -  Getty Images

Liverpool begins life without Philippe Coutinho in arguably the most daunting fashion possible, with the visit of Manchester City to Anfield on Sunday.

Pep Guardiola's side, with 20 wins and two draws from 22 Premier League games this term, has practically been playing in a different competition to everyone else and it would take a monumental slip-up for it to fail to win the title now.

The loss of Coutinho has come as a blow to the Reds, of course, but Jurgen Klopp has created a formidable record at home and a redoubtable run of results against the rest of the so-called 'big six'.

This is a meeting of the two most prolific goal-scorers in the division (City on 64, Liverpool on 50) and the teams with the longest unbeaten streaks (the home side on 13, the visitor an amazing 30). What's more, Liverpool has the best home defensive record in the league this season (it has conceded just four goals), while City has shipped only five on its travels.

Something has to give on Merseyside.

KLOPP MIGHT HAVE THE KEY TO STOPPING RAMPANT CITY

City's form this season has been little short of frightening. Unbeaten in domestic football and with the quadruple still in its sights, the side has set a record in England's top flight of 62 points from 22 matches.

It has scored 64 goals in that time, giving it an average of just less than three per game, while you have to go back to 1962-63 to find a team to have scored as many goals in the same number of fixtures.

Liverpool is actually a point worse off than it was at this stage last term, when it finished fourth, but its home performances will give it plenty of hope of stopping the City machine: it has only conceded four times at home, which is the best record in the league, and nobody has yet claimed all three points at Anfield.

Additionally, the side has in Klopp a manager who knows how to get results from the big matches. Since he took charge in October 2015, the Reds have won more points in Premier League games between the 'big six' than any other side (39). They also have more wins (9), fewer defeats (3) and more goals (40) than anyone else in these fixtures.

Klopp has also beaten Guardiola four times in competitive games in all competitions. Only Jose Mourinho can match that figure.

FORM GUIDE

Only City's run of 30 games without defeat is better than Liverpool's sequence of 13, while the Reds have won their last three league games in a row and could make that four for the first time since December 2016 on Sunday.

That said, Manchester City is unbeaten in 14 away matches and has already claimed three points at Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford during that remarkable run.

Goals appear to be a guarantee in this meeting. Liverpool has only failed to score in three league games this season: the 0-0 draw with West Brom last month, the goalless stalemate with Manchester United in October, and the 5-0 hammering by City at the Etihad Stadium in September.

Guardiola's side has been scintillating in attack this term but it has shown some signs of recent fallibility on the road, having only beaten Newcastle United 1-0 before being held to a 0-0 draw by Crystal Palace. Plus, it now has the sizeable Virgil van Dijk to get past in the Liverpool defence.

PLAYER HEAD-TO-HEAD (Mohamed Salah and Raheem Sterling)

Raheem Sterling has not exactly been popular on his returns to Anfield since his move to City in 2015, but Liverpool fans would be particularly delighted not to see him on Sunday.

The England international has taken his form to another level this season. He has scored 14 times and has four assists from his 20 appearances, giving him a record of 83.9 minutes per goal contribution.

Liverpool fans would argue that they don't miss Sterling any more, though. Mohamed Salah - who is expected to be fit for the game after a groin problem - has produced form that has actually surpassed that of Sterling in his first season back in England.

With 17 goals, five assists and a minutes-per-goal-involvement average of 72.5, the Egyptian has been the leading light under Klopp.

HISTORY SAYS...

...a comfortable Liverpool win. No, really.

Liverpool's recent record against City at home is seriously impressive. The last time it lost to City at Anfield was in May 2003, and it has won all four of the most recent of those meetings since.

In fact, the only team City has had a longer winless away run against in the top flight is Arsenal (15 games, between 1992 and 2012). And while Guardiola's side ran out 5-0 winner in the reverse fixture, it has not done the league double over Liverpool since the 1936-37 season. 

When you add Klopp's record against the rest of the 'big six' to the equation, it really does feel like this could be City's most difficult fixture between now and the end of the season.