Title rivals Liverpool and Manchester City face off this weeekend, and Kevin Hatchard believes the hosts' home record has to be respected.
Liverpool v Manchester City Sunday 10 November, 16:30 Live on Sky Sports Main Event
Liverpool can add another line to the Anfield story
David Fairclough against Saint Etienne. Steven Gerrard versus Olympiakos. Dejan Lovren destroying Dortmund, and Divock Origi breaking Barcelona.
The power of Anfield has become a cliché to some, but Liverpool's history glitters with magical moments, comebacks that defied logic and became woven into the fabric of football. The masses that have occupied the Kop for decades have witnessed enough dramatic moments to know that talented opponents do crumble in front of them, that the Anfield factor in a tangible weapon for Liverpool to wield, and not just a figment of the imagination.
Jurgen Klopp, a man whose charisma and common touch have helped him form a strong bond with supporters, has developed home advantage to the point where a defeat for his team in L4 would be a seismic shock. Liverpool haven't lost a Premier League home match since April 2017, and they have won their last 12 top-flight games on home soil. In Klopp's reign, Manchester City have been blown away at Anfield in the Champions League, and beaten in a seven-goal thriller in the Premier League. In last season's UCL semi-final, Barcelona arrived with a 3-0 first-leg lead, and left the north-west of England shell-shocked and humiliated.
A six-point advantage has been built up over City in the title race, but Liverpool know they lost a bigger lead against Pep Guardiola's side last term. Last weekend's dramatic 2-1 win at Aston Villa was a great example of Liverpool's grit and determination, but the fact that Liverpool trailed until the 87th minute will give their rivals cause for some comfort.
Klopp has some big decisions to make for the biggest test of his team's season. Most of the team picks itself, but the big conundrums are in midfield in defence. Joe Gomez and Dejan Lovren are competing for one central defensive slot, while Fabinho is almost certain to start in the heart of the pitch. His two midfield partners can be selected from a strong group which includes the in-form Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The former Arsenal player has scored four goals in his last four games, and has scored in two home wins against Manchester City under Klopp.
Guardiola with chance to enhance glowing reputation
The recent drama at Bayern Munich (the Bavarians sacked their coach Niko Kovac after a 5-1 hammering at Eintracht Frankfurt) once against highlighted how high Pep Guardiola set the bar when he was at Sabener Strasse.
His critics point to his failure to lead Bayern to a Champions League final, but he won the league title in all three of his seasons with a dizzying and thrilling brand of football that has had a lasting impact. He revolutionised what his players expected from their leader in terms of tactical input, and the likes of Kovac and Carlo Ancelotti have since struggled to live up to those demands.
Guardiola's work at Manchester City has been equally stunning. Yes, the Catalan coach has had money to spend, and he isn't squeamish about admitting he needs elite players for his brand of football to work, but he has secured 198 points in the last two Premier League seasons. Under the most relentless pressure from Liverpool, Guardiola's City won their final 14 PL games of last season - no slips, no wobbles, no errors. In that sequence, City scored 32 goals and conceded just four.
City had to play catch-up against Liverpool last term, and having succeeded in that chase, they appear confident they can do so again. Indeed, Guardiola has made the point that he doesn't need to win at Anfield, indicating that the mere avoidance of defeat would keep City in the race. The markets show that plenty of people still believe in the champions - they are only 2.26 in the Premier League winner market (LFC are 1.94,) and are slight favourites for this clash at Anfield.
Goalkeeper Ederson went off injured against Atalanta in midweek, and although Kyle Walker impressed during his Champions League cameo (the defender donned the gloves after Claudio Bravo had been sent off), Bravo will step in. David Silva is definitely out, as are long-term injury victims Aymeric Laporte and Leroy Sane. If Rodri misses out, Guardiola must decide whether to deploy Fernandinho in midfield rather than at centre-back.
Reds worth backing with insurance
City haven't won at Anfield since Kevin Keegan was in charge back in 2003, and Liverpool's phenomenal home record under Klopp suggests they are overpriced to take the win at 2.76. We can use that to our advantage by backing the Reds 0 on the Asian Handicap at [2.01]. If the hosts win, we pick up an odds-against winner, if the game is drawn, our stake is returned.
Weight of occasion may keep things tight
In last season's Anfield clash, both teams kept each other at arm's length, and the match ended goalless. There were just 13 shots in total, and only four on target. Guardiola has already indicated that he doesn't feel City need to win the game, so how many risks will he take, especially if defensive screen Rodri isn't fit enough to start?
Including this season's surprisingly intense battle in the Community Shield, two of the last three meetings between the sides have featured fewer than three goals. I'll back Under 2.5 Goals at 2.42.
In-form Ox worth a look
If Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain does start, it's worth considering he has scored goals against City in the past, and is in great form. He is priced at a hefty 4/1 on the Sportsbook to score at any time.
On the Manchester City side of things, former Liverpool star Raheem Sterling scored against the Reds in the Community Shield, and has netted in 13 of the 20 games he has played this season for club and country. He's priced at 17/10 to score at any time.