Reigning champions and current Premier League leaders Manchester City will welcome Merseyside outfit Liverpool in what is arguably the biggest fixture in the English domestic league and in Europe generally.
Both sides are separated by just a solitary point and it is believed that whoever gets all three points on offer, could most likely go ahead to win the Premier League crown for the 2021/2022 season – although it must be said that Liverpool have the toughest fixtures in the run-in unlike the Cityzens.
The first leg between the pair finished in a pulsating 2-2 draw, with Mo Salah scoring a goal worthy to be a contender for the Goal of the Season award. As we anticipate Gameweek 32 epic clash, Apex Football serves you soem interesting key battles ahead of kick-off at the Etihad Stadium.
JOAO CANCELO VS MOHAMED SALAH:
Portuguese international Joao Cancelo has been instrumental at left back for the Cityzens this season, not only defensively but also with his forward runs and sheer quality in the final third. But come Sunday evening, all eyes will be on his battle with Mohamed Salah down the left flank as he will be put to the test and pushed to the limits defensively, which could ultimately limit his attacking output. He will also have to worry about Trent Alexander-Arnold pushing forward.
Cancelo likes to drift inside and create overload situations for Bernardo Silva and Kevin de Bruyne to feed off, so Salah will also have to be switched on defensively throughout. With Salah going through a little bit of a barren run as regards goals, perhaps Cancelo may have the edge going into this game. But remember what Salah did to Cancelo and the entire City defence to score that beauty of a goal at Anfield earlier this season. Expect something blistering!
KEVIN DE BRUYNE VS FABINHO:
City manager Pep Guardiola could make the call to field midfield maestro Kevin de Bruyne in central midfield as one of three, or start the Belgian in a false nine role which will enable him drop off the forward line and back into midfield to cause havoc. Whichever role De Bruyne is assigned, he will have to get the better of Fabinho. Liverpool’s Brazilian midfielder has hit top form this season and is rarely outwitted in the midfield battle and mops up brilliantly in front of Joel Matip and Virgil van Dijk. De Bruyne, Foden and Bernardo Silva will all be buzzing around him and he can not afford to give KDB the slightest chance at goal.
De Bruyne has shown that he is in great form, scoring six goals and providing four assists in his last 10 appearances across all competitions for City. He is clearly back to his best and even scored the winning goal for his side in midweek against Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their quarter-final tie.
BERNARDO SILVA VS THIAGO ALCANTARA:
Thiago Alcantara has been super impressive in midfield for Jurgen Klopp’s side this season, working tirelessly in the middle of the pack. The Spaniard has made 12 Premier League starts for the Reds this campaign in which they have gone on to win all of those games with a combined score of 35-2.
Alcantara is not only great at recycling possession efficiently but is also excellent at ground duels but he will meet his match in Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva on Sunday.
Silva has been one of the best midfielders in the Premier League this term. He has scored seven goals and provided two assists and will look to make things happen for Pep Guardiola’s men in the final third. The Portuguese international is not easy to shake off the ball just like Thiago and this could be a very interesting battle.
KYLE WALKER VS ANDY ROBERTSON:
The duo of Kyle Walker and Andrew Robertson have both been consistent for their respective teams in Manchester City and Liverpool and they are set to cancel each other out when they clash at the Etihad.
Robertson has come up with some big moments in this game in recent seasons and seems to have the slight edge over Walker. That said, Walker has the tremendous ability to get back to his defensive duties due to his pace when City forward attacks breaks down. Walker’s incredible pace is a huge asset to City when going forward and if they can win the ball back with Liverpool in attack, they must be direct and play balls down the channels as Alexander-Arnold and Robertson will both likely be pushed forward.
RAHEEM STERLING VS TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD:
This is actually one epic battle most fans would want to see. Trent Alexander-Arnold has continued his growth with each new season in the right-back role and he demonstrated his qualities by producing a passing masterclass against Benfica in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League quarter-final clash against Portuguese Primeira Liga side Benfica in midweek which Liverpool won 3-1.
But the 23 year-old will need to be on high-alerts against Raheem Sterling of Manchester City. Sterling can be a wiry presence down the left flank and if City dominates possession the way they are well-known for, Alexander-Arnold will have a torrid afternoon.
Also, Alexander-Arnold is one of the main goal creators for his side and if Guardiola’s men can keep him in check, they will be able to cut off a major supply source to Liverpool’s forward line.