Once the awkward guard of honour is done we’ll have an absolutely cracking Premier League clash to look forward to on Thursday.
Liverpool play their first match since they were confirmed champions last week and ironically, they’re up against the side they’ve dethroned, Manchester City.
There’s no doubting Jurgen Klopp’s men have been top dogs in the league – there’s a 23-point difference between the two sides after all – but City are more than capable of hurting Liverpool.
City and Liverpool have clearly been the two best teams in the land this season but neither have been perfect since it restarted.
The Reds were held to a goalless draw by Everton in their first match but normality was restored when they thumped Crystal Palace 4-0.
Meanwhile, Pep Guardiola’s side got off to a lightning quick start, beating Arsenal and Burnley 3-0 and 5-0 respectively but stumbled to a 2-1 defeat at Chelsea in their last match, handing Liverpool the title.
Below you can see how talkSPORT.com thinks Man City and Liverpool should line up at the Etihad Stadium.
Manchester City team news
Following his red card at Stamford Bridge, Fernandinho will not be able to face Liverpool as he begins a two-match ban.
Striker Sergio Aguero, who’s scored in every Premier League match he’s played at home to Liverpool, is out for the rest of the season with a knee injury. Eric Garcia could be absent due to the head injury he suffered against Arsenal on June 17.
How Manchester City should look
The title is officially gone but this game is the perfect opportunity for City to send a message to Liverpool that they’ll be back next season. Guardiola therefore must play his best available team.
It’s been confirmed Leroy Sane will leave for Bayern Munich in the summer so playing him would be inappropriate.
No Fernandinho poses a slight problem for City as he’s arguably their second best centre-back behind Aymeric Laporte. Rodri has some experience at centre-back but Nicolas Otamendi is certainly their third best option there.
Benjamin Mendy was at fault for Chelsea’s first goal but Mohamed Salah had a lot of success against Oleksandr Zinchenko and Angelino when City faced Liverpool in the Community Shield and the reverse fixture in the Premier League respectively.
City usually play a 4-3-3 but this is Liverpool they’re facing and they’re without their star striker so a more conservative 4-2-3-1 should be used. However, they’ll still be able to take the game to their opponents.
Two defensive midfielders in Rodri and Ilkay Gundogan should nullify the Reds going forward and allow their attacking players to get at the Liverpool defence.
Kevin De Bruyne can have a more free role in attacking midfield which would cause any opposition problems. Raheem Sterling is the usual starter on the left and this is a great chance for Gabriel Jesus to prove himself by leading the line.
On the right, we haven’t gone for Bernardo Silva or Riyad Mahrez, but Phil Foden instead.
Foden is the natural successor to David Silva’s throne and this match is all about City looking forward towards next season.
The 20-year-old played on the right in the Carabao Cup final and was the best player on the pitch, plus he can be trusted to get back and help his team defend when Liverpool have the ball slightly more than Bernardo and Mahrez.
Liverpool team news
The champions are slightly lighter in defence following news that centre-back Joel Matip is out for the rest of the season with a foot injury against Everton.
However, James Miler may be in contention to play, having missed the Palace game with a hamstring strain.
How Liverpool should look
Klopp has made it clear he expects the players to keep up their intensity for the rest of the season. There’s a league points tally record to break, which Man City currently hold with a total of 100 in 2017/18.
Although Liverpool will enter a period of four matches in nine days from Thursday, their next three are against Aston Villa, Brighton and Burnley. That’s the time to rotate the squad, not against City.
Their 4-3-3 formation system has served Liverpool well this season so why not play it against City?
They played 4-3-3 on their last trip to the Etihad in January 2019, a match they lost 2-1 in what was a crucial moment in the title race.
However, there are lessons to be learnt in the personnel rather than the playing style. Centre-back Joe Gomez and midfielder Fabinho didn’t feature but they’re available this time meaning they absolutely should play.
Strikers always latch onto whoever’s playing next to Virgil van Dijk and the risk of conceding is considerably smaller if that defender is Gomez rather than Dejan Lovren.
Liverpool were totally over-run in midfield last season but Fabinho should be there to break up the play from City’s attackers, including De Bruyne.
Jordan Henderson is one of the first names on the teamsheet but it’s a toss-up between Georginio Wijnaldum and Naby Keita for that final slot in the midfield three. Wijnaldum should get the nod as he’s more defensively-minded than Keita and Liverpool will be required to do that a lot in the match.
Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah, Liverpool’s deadly front three, pick themselves while Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold are shoo-ins for the left-back and right-back slots respectively. If Alisson Becker’s fit, he plays. End of.