EPL

Liverpool v Manchester City: Rodri returns, Bravo in for Ederson

By Sports Desk November 10, 2019

Rodri made a surprise return to the Manchester City starting line-up for Sunday's blockbuster Premier League clash against Liverpool, with Claudio Bravo replacing injured goalkeeper Ederson as expected for the champions.

Spain midfielder Rodri has not featured since suffering a hamstring injury during City's 5-1 Champions League win over Atalanta last month but makes an ahead-of-schedule return at Anfield, where leaders Liverpool are aiming to extend their six-point advantage over Pep Guardiola's side.

A fitness setback during this week's return versus Atalanta might have the greatest impact upon City's prospects, with Ederson's thigh problem heralding a first top-flight appearance since May 2018 for Chile international Bravo, who was sent off after being introduced as a substitute at San Siro on Wednesday.

Angelino is the other eyebrow-raising inclusion in the City XI, with fellow left-back Benjamin Mendy not in the matchday squad.

David Silva, who limped out of last weekend's 2-1 win over Southampton, makes the bench.

By contrast, Liverpool line up as expected – Dejan Lovren partnering Virgil van Dijk at centre-back in Joel Matip's continued absence, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's impressive Champions League outings have not been enough to dislodged either of Jordan Henderson or Georginio Wijnaldum in central midfield.

Fernandinho lines up at centre-back once more for Manchester City and, along with John Stones, the captain must lead the defensive effort to contain Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.

Raheem Sterling – against his former team – and Bernardo Silva will flank Sergio Aguero in the City attack, with the club's all-time record scorer still searching for a first Anfield goal.

Related items

  • I wasn't living the way I should - Sterling improvement down to football 'obsession' I wasn't living the way I should - Sterling improvement down to football 'obsession'

    Raheem Sterling believes he has transformed from a player who was not "living the way I should" into a football obsessive.

    Sterling heads into Saturday's derby against Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium as Manchester City's premier attacking threat, particularly in the injury-enforced absence of Sergio Aguero.

    The England forward has become indispensable for club and country, converting his promise into prolific returns over recent seasons.

    Under the guidance of Pep Guardiola, former Liverpool star Sterling blossomed with 18 and 17 goals respectively in City's back-to-back Premier League triumphs in 2017-18 and 2018-19.

    The 24-year-old has eight in 14 top-flight outings this time around, the same number of goals he amassed during England's successful Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.

    "It's all about mentality. Mentality, maturity and growing up," Sterling said.

    "I think now I'm living for football. I'm obsessed with football, obsessed with scoring goals, obsessed with recovering quicker and obsessed with improving myself.

    "You have every facility here so you have to use it to the best of your advantage to try to be the best you can be. I was decisive but I wasn't 100 per cent committed. I wasn't 100 per cent living the way I should be living to be a professional footballer. I realised that and changed it.

    "You see the improvements on the pitch and so that's why you continue to do it. Because you see how you feel on the field and what your output is.

    "You look at what your numbers are doing. It's a good thing and, as a professional, you have to learn, take it in your stride and keep learning. That’s all I do."

    An uncomfortable number for City to look at right now is the 11-point gap between themselves and Premier League leaders Liverpool.

    Jurgen Klopp's men won 3-1 when the sides met at Anfield last month and have only dropped two points all season, although Sterling is not giving up on three consecutive league titles just yet.

    "We just need to keep winning games and hope they lose some," he said.

    "It's as simple as that. They're playing some good football at the moment, but it's a long season. We have got to keep winning, keep believing.

    "Football is a funny game and in one moment it can change. You have to be ready. At the moment, they're leading, and we just have to keep working and keep winning."

    First of all, that means no slip ups against United, who won two and drew one of the previous three derbies at the Etihad Stadium before City ran out 3-1 winners last term.

    "We're always fighting against each other to be the number one team in the city," Sterling added.

    "That's always a great thing to do. Both teams have great players and great managers; I think this weekend we'll show nothing less.

    "Playing against United is always difficult and we know it'll be a tough game."

  • Guardiola 'surprised' by City's recent dominance over United Guardiola 'surprised' by City's recent dominance over United

    Pep Guardiola conceded he is surprised by the gap between Manchester City and Manchester United since he took charge at the Etihad Stadium.

    City and United – who meet in this season's first Manchester derby on Saturday - finished fourth and fifth respectively in 2015-16, separated only by goal difference after amassing 66 points apiece.

    Guardiola's arrival at the same time as Jose Mourinho took charge at Old Trafford for the subsequent campaign was expected to herald an unforgettable new chapter in a century-old local squabble, while adding to the enmity the two elite tacticians built up when at Barcelona and Real Madrid.

    It did not quite pan out that way, with Mourinho's EFL Cup and Europa League triumphs in 2016-17 proving to be a false dawn at United.

    By the time the former Chelsea and Inter boss was sacked in December last year, City were on their way to back-to-back Premier League titles and a domestic treble that means Guardiola has lifted five of the past six major honours on offer in England.

    City are 11 points better off than United heading into the match at the Etihad Stadium, the gap having been nine, 19 and 32 points at the end of each of the past three seasons.

    Guardiola pointed to his team's 3-2 defeat to their rivals on their own patch in April 2018, a result that delayed a coronation as champions, as a warning of what can happen in derby matches, but he was realistic about the overall picture in Manchester

    "My reflection is we were better. In the time we were here, we were better than United at the end of the season," he said.

    "The points show that. Our consistency was incredible. It surprised myself, too.

    "But in one game, another game, a derby, everything can happen."

    At his own pre-match news conference, United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer joked about not always being able to enjoy Manchester derbies during his playing days as City loitered in the lower divisions – a period at the end of the 1990s in which Guardiola has become well-versed.

    "We love our clubs. Each fan loves their club and that's why they support. It doesn't matter if you have a lot of success in the past, it's part of how you feel," he said.

    "Normally the supporters want to see their teams win and win and win, but they support them even in the bad, bad circumstances.

    "Manchester City, I learned in the history, in the bad, bad moments, always the support was higher or more louder than now.

    "In the perspective of the trophy cabinet, they are better. No doubts about that. Numbers are numbers in that situation and they lift more titles than us.

    "But we try to be there for as long as possible. For City fans, Manchester City always will be better, like United fans will always believe their club is better."

    In terms of a competitive rivalry, Liverpool now concern the blue side of Manchester as they once did the red.

    Despite an 11-point gap to Jurgen Klopp's Premier League leaders, Guardiola is satisfied with the efforts of a City team who stylishly returned to winning ways by thumping Burnley 4-1 in midweek.

    "I don't know. One reason, no doubt about that, is the quality of the opponent. Their numbers are incredible," he said.

    "I expected a bit [of a drop off] in the first weeks of the season after back-to-back [titles] but the players, I am not dissatisfied with how they play. I am quite happy when I review all the games we played.

    "I don't believe the stats too much, but I know we are the best team by far creating chances and the best team by far [at] conceding few [chances].

    "But we are 11 points behind. Something happened, I will try to discover."

    A vulnerable defence without the injury Aymeric Laporte and departed captain Vincent Kompany has been frequently cited, not least after City stepped away from a close-season bidding war with United for England centre-back Harry Maguire.

    "He's a United player, he decided to go there," Guardiola added. "They paid more than we wanted to pay and he is there.

    "I think he's an exceptional player for United and for England."

  • Reggae Girlz programme has a hole in it now – assistant coach Reggae Girlz programme has a hole in it now – assistant coach

    Reggae Girlz assistant coach Lorne Donaldson believes the women’s programme in Jamaica has taken a hit with the departure of World Cup qualifying coach, Hue Menzies.

    Menzies, on Tuesday, announced his intention to leave the programme after disputes with the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) seemed not to have a resolution in sight.

    According to Menzies, the JFF has not paid money due to him in his contract, failed to communicate with him regarding a new contract after his expired in August, and have not reimbursed him for expenses incurred on the job.

    Donaldson, himself, has said he would be unwilling to take up the top post, coaching the Girlz, unless there were guarantees that some of the issues Menzies spoke about were addressed.

    “Menzies not being around puts a hole in the programme; the staff is really bummed because we did a lot of work within the last five years, some of it is work done behind the scenes that people don't know about, and we scraped and fought with these kids. So Hue not being around is a big setback for this programme,” said Donaldson.

    The executive director of coaching at Real Colorado Soccer also believes there is a lot of uncertain surrounding the programme with just a couple of months to go before the Reggae Girlz take on the final round of Olympic Qualification.

    “The crucial stage of the Olympic qualifiers is coming up, but we already messed that up because we had a game against the USA and we didn't take the game. We would have played the number one team in the world and we didn't take the game, so all this stuff is a setback for us,” said Donaldson.

    “Now we missed the FIFA window; no games and I don't know when we are going to have any friendly games or camps because everything seems to be very difficult. I know Costa Rica wants to play us in January, and that's kind of late, but Costa Rica is still waiting for them to respond, so I don't know,” he said.

    Still, Donaldson believes there is much promise in the Reggae Girlz programme and wants to ensure that that promise is fulfilled.

    “We are going to concentrate on the players because we actually owe it to them. [Hubert] Busby and I, we made a commitment to some of the parents and players for the U-20s and U-17s,” said Donaldson.

    “Again, it is going to be difficult trying to do the U-17s and the U-20s because nobody seems like they are interested on that side. There is interest elsewhere, but we have to find the right people who want to see women's football succeed in Jamaica. Right now it is not happening,” he said.

© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.