Manchester City v Liverpool
Saturday, 12:45
Live on Sky Sports Main Event

Match Odds: Manchester City 1.90, Liverpool 4.30, The Draw 4.10.

The transfer window is closed, the international break is over - now, the Premier League feels like it really gets underway. This weekend's opening game is the most exciting of the round, with Liverpool travelling to Manchester City. Pep Guardiola's side are odds-on favourites, but this could be a very tricky contest for the home side.

After all, City have been far from impressive in the opening weeks, and while they scraped a win at Bournemouth last time out, a deflected last-minute effort from Raheem Sterling covered up a fairly uninspiring display.

Guardiola still seems unsure of his best system. He ditched the 3-5-2 for the trip to Bournemouth in favour of a 4-3-3, and that might be appropriate for this weekend's contest too. The speed of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah ripped apart Arsenal's three-man defence last time out, and Guardiola will surely be reluctant to expose Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi to that type of speed in wide positions.

City start as favourites

Therefore, Guardiola seems likely to return to a four-man defence. Kyle Walker is available again after suspension, while Benjamin Mendy was impressive on debut against Bournemouth and should start on the opposite flank. Kompany is a slight injury doubt here, so Stones and Otamendi might start in the centre.

Guardiola is likely to field a three-man midfield with Fernandinho at the base, and both David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne pushing forward from more advanced positions, hoping to overcome Liverpool's strength and tenacity with raw technical quality.

Guardiola lacks options out wide, however, with Sterling suspended against his former club, and this might prove costly against a Liverpool side lacking consistency at full-back. Bernardo Silva may again start on the right and drift inside, with Leroy Sane providing more directness on the left.

Assuming Guardiola goes with just one striker, his biggest decision will be upfront, where Gabriel Jesus might get the nod over Sergio Aguero again, following his fine goal from David Silva's pinpoint through-ball last time out.

Liverpool defensive questions

Jurgen Klopp, meanwhile, primarily has selection decisions in defensive positions - and between the posts. Simon Mignolet was curiously omitted from the 4-0 win over Liverpool, and Loris Karius managed to look extremely nervous despite not having a single shot to save all evening. Mignolet will surely return here.

There are further question marks at full-back. Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold are battling it out on the right, while Andrew Robertson will probably be favoured over Alberto Moreno on the left, with James Milner seemingly now considered as a midfielder having deputised in defence last season.

In midfield, Klopp can welcome back Philippe Coutinho but it's difficult to see the Brazilian getting a start this weekend. The three-man midfield of Jordan Henderson, Emre Can and Georginio Wijnaldum was excellent against Arsenal and it's difficult to see why Liverpool would want to disturb that.

Klopp will similarly have no reason to change the front three of Roberto Firmino flanked by Mane and Salah. They absolutely terrorised Arsenal at Anfield, with all three getting on the scoresheet in that 4-0 win, and they could wreak havoc again here.

City centre-backs at risk of collecting cards

In particular, watch for Firmino taking up clever positions between the lines to tempt City's centre-backs out - both Kompany and Otamendi have been guilty of rash tackles this season and could go into the referee's notebook here - with Mane and Salah streaking past on the outside. The speed of City's full-backs will be crucial.

Liverpool are likely to start at a high tempo, and their pressing might cause significant problems in the early stages before City have settled down into a proper passing rhythm. The power of Liverpool's central midfielders, in particular, will be crucial.

But City boast tremendous technical quality in midfield, and De Bruyne is the type of player who boasts the intelligence to cause Henderson problems between the lines. In particular, he might drift right before whipping crosses into the box. Liverpool remain bad defensively in those situations, even if Jesus isn't the most natural aerial target.

Nevertheless, I'm hugely surprised to see City odds-on here - they might be at home, but they've looked far less impressive than Liverpool this season. I'll lay City at 1.95.

The Betfair Trader's View - Alan Thompson

Since these two played out a 0-0 draw at the Etihad in 2010, they have shared 24 goals in Liverpool’s seven visits, averaging just shy of 3.5 goals per game with both teams scoring in the last five, I fully expect the goals to flow again this time around with both defences looking a bit shaky.

City left it a little bit late to secure the points at Bournemouth but have made a decent start to the campaign and Liverpool are in a rich vein of form coming into this on the back of four straight wins in all competitions. A win for either team will see them top the league albeit maybe just for a few hours.

Despite both sides having Champions League commitments on Wednesday they will both be fully focused on getting a win and enhancing their title credentials, and that should give us an entertaining encounter.

I will be splitting my stake backing Over 3.5 Goals at 2.40 and if there isn’t an early goal placing the other half on Over 2.5 Goals should it reach 2.00.

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