Manchester City vs. Liverpool FC: Players to Watch and Prediction

Shane Evans@@shanevansContributor IApril 8, 2022

Manchester City vs. Liverpool FC: Players to Watch and Prediction

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    Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola meet again.
    Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola meet again.Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    This is the one we've all been waiting for.

    The 2021-22 English Premier League season has been a winding road that has led us to the blue side of Manchester for what should be an epic atmosphere with title-winning flavor. Manchester City and Liverpool, the two favorites for the crown, will square off in a match that has been highly anticipated since the pair started to run away with things at the top of the table.

    Easily the two best teams in the league this campaign, City and Liverpool have been on a collision course to this match, one that will surely decide the fate of the title. 

    Pep Guardiola's City has been in control for much of the year until a recent dip in form that has seen it lose once and draw twice in the league since the turn of the year. Liverpool's exhilarating play of late has closed the gap at the top; the Reds have won 10 games and drawn only once in the league since the start of 2022.

    It goes without saying that not only are these two the most in-form clubs in the league, but also the highest-quality sides, with Transfermarkt valuing Liverpool's squad at nearly $1 billion while City's roster eclipses that amount.

    Within those teams are plenty of stars who could provide a game-changing element to Sunday's fixture. In an effort to distill things down slightly, let's examine some of the players to keep an eye on, starting with arguably the best player who will take the pitch on either side.

Player to Watch: Kevin De Bruyne

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    Few players in the world have been playing better than this man.
    Few players in the world have been playing better than this man.Soccrates Images/Getty Images

    It's hard to argue about De Bruyne's dominance this season, especially lately. Undoubtedly the first player on Pep's teamsheet, the Belgian linchpin just makes everything Man City does that much better than when he's on the pitch.

    His tour de force against Atletico Madrid's 10 defenders in midweek UEFA Champions League action added more personal hardware to his cabinet—and deservedly so. Scoring the winner in that game from a fantastic Phil Foden through ball, De Bruyne has seemingly expanded his game to being a consistent goalscorer. This is bad news for opposing defenses.

    Against Liverpool, he'll be presented with his toughest midfield opposition of the season, as the Reds trio of Naby Keita, Thiago Alcantara and Fabinho are finally playing together and playing well. With the form De Bruyne is in, even that unit will have difficulty.

    A big-game player who can be relied on when the moment arises, De Bruyne will have his fingerprints all over Sunday's match in one way or another.

Player to Watch: Luis Diaz

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    Diaz has fit right in with the Liverpool squad.
    Diaz has fit right in with the Liverpool squad.Gualter Fatia/Getty Images

    Like Diogo Jota before him, Luis Diaz has become the latest impact addition to this already-stacked Liverpool squad. Joining in January from Porto, the Colombian sparkplug put in a man-of-the-match performance for the Reds against Benfica in the Champions League and has been one of Jurgen Klopp's most dangerous players since he signed.

    Already tallying three goals and an assist for Liverpool, the 25-year-old plays with confidence, aggression and purpose en route to goal and has fit perfectly into Klopp's suffocating offensive system. The players in that forward rotation attack with vigor and will be no easy assignment for even the top-tier defenders in Man City's ranks.

    Look for Diaz to continue his run in the starting lineup and match up against a good defender in Kyle Walker. There's a chance it could be Joao Cancelo, but more than likely the Englishman will be there to contest with the player Klopp adores and sees as a long-term fit with the group.

Player to Watch: Jack Grealish

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    Manchester City still waiting for just a little more from Jack.
    Manchester City still waiting for just a little more from Jack.Soccrates Images/Getty Images

    The latest Gucci brand ambassador has become a more regular part of Pep Guardiola's lineups in recent months, and despite the numbers not exactly being there (two goals and two assists in 20 Premier League matches), he's involving himself in the attack.

    It is time that he had a breakout, man-of-the-match type performance in a high-pressure situation. This upcoming contest Sunday would certainly qualify.

    Grealish's sluggish start hasn't had much of a negative impact on City, mostly because other members of the attacking rotation have put in top-notch performances. But that can't last forever. The $130 million man will be asked to raise his game the remainder of this season, particularly if things don't go his side's way this weekend.

    Likely going up against fellow Englishman Trent Alexander-Arnold, who's a better defender than he's given credit for, Grealish will want to stay involved throughout in this one, taking some of the pressure off KDB and others in the forward areas. Even in a cameo appearance against Atletico, the attention was on him, and that helps his teammates.

Player to Watch: Ibrahima Konate

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    Pretty good time for Konate's first goal as a Red.
    Pretty good time for Konate's first goal as a Red.Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

    Liverpool's other big man has been getting minutes lately and got himself on the scoresheet in the Champions League this week. His play next to the immovable Virgil van Dijk will be integral for the Reds' chances in Manchester.

    His unbeaten run since joining the Merseyside club is no fluke, but this upcoming match is his biggest test yet. As noted above, Man City throws everything at you and allows no room for mistakes, especially in what will be a charged-up atmosphere.

    The 22-year-old French defender will need to keep his head on a swivel for the entirety of this one, particularly if things stay scoreless deep into the match and Pep can start tinkering with the attack. While there may not be a true No. 9 on the pitch for the home side, all of the options that Konate will be up against offer a slightly different style of play.

    We won't see too much forward play in the air (Konate and VVD are both 6'4"), so keeping the play in front of him, with a little Fabinho support, will go a long way for the Reds.

Prediction: Man City 2-2 Liverpool

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    Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Getty Images

    Very simply, this one is for the Premier League title. Let's examine the simple scenarios here.

    If Man City wins, it goes ahead by four points with seven matches to play, all of which are extremely winnable—in other words, game over. For Liverpool, a victory propels it into first place and gives it all the confidence it will need going into the second of back-to-back matches with Manchester clubs, which is part of a moderately more difficult run-in.

    Either way, the winner of this match will head into the final portion of the season as the favorite to take home the title.

    A draw? That just keeps things interesting for another few weeks.

    It's hard to pick between two squads that are in such great form and with so much on the line, but a heavy defeat, blue or red, just feels unlikely. Of course, an early goal in this match could change things dramatically. Still, as exciting as the action may be, a draw would be suitable for both sides.