Early in the Premier League season, when the campaign’s roadmap is drafted for the months to come, Liverpool’s match with Manchester City at Anfield on New Year’s Eve was billed as one of the decisive games of the top-flight campaign.
Under Pep Guardiola, the men from the Etihad Stadium swept all before them in the initial weeks of the campaign and their closest challengers looked set to be Jurgen Klopp’s rampant Reds, who were obliterating defences with their perpetual motion on the ball in the final third.
That encounter on the final day of 2016 didn’t end up being the momentous occasion that was expected. Neither team played particularly well on the day, with the Reds edging a 1-0 win at Anfield. It was a precursor of what was to come, as both sides struggled in early 2017 and slumped down the pecking order.
With Chelsea streaking away at the summit of the table, Sunday’s showdown at the Etihad Stadium is not quite as important as many would have expected. But it’s still important, with both teams seeking to secure their spot in the Premier League’s top four.
City currently sit in third place, level on points with Tottenham in second spot and 10 points behind the runaway leaders. The Reds are a point back and a place back having played a game more, although they can usurp their Manchester rivals with three points on the road.
Crucially, both teams are on an upward curve as things stand too, with each slowly finding their feet after testing spells. And with the top prize out of reach for each, perhaps we’ll see the shackles off these two attacking outfits and a much more enjoyable game than the one that underwhelmed last year.
When and where to watch the game on US TV and streaming:
Date: Sunday, March 19, 2017
Time: 12:30 p.m. (ET), 9:30 a.m. (PT), 4:30 p.m. (GMT)
US TV: NBC (over-the-air network)
US streaming: NBC Sports App and fubo Premier (7-day free trial)
Overall, it’s been a campaign that has been a little disappointing. Granted, the team spent a lot of money in the summer and the acquisition of players like Leroy Sane and Gabriel Jesus has made plenty excited about the future at the Etihad Stadium. But there is still a long way for this team to go.
This is an opportunity to take another positive step, though. Although City did overcome Liverpool in last season’s League Cup final, overall they’ve struggled against Klopp’s side. In this fixture last season, the Reds ran riot in a 4-1 win at the Etihad Stadium.
The big issue for City in these matches has been their intensity. While David Silva, Yaya Toure and Kevin De Bruyne are all wonderful manipulators of the ball, Liverpool have trampled all over them in that area of the pitch in previous meetings. The City defence has been chasing shadows against the Reds’ fluid forwards too.