BILLY BUNTER

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Reds and Man City both desperate not to lose

The biggest game of the Premier League season has humdinger written all over it and Liverpool and Manchester City should play out an enthralling contest at Anfield which will no doubt tell us plenty about the title challenges of both sides.

Before a ball was kicked in this campaign it was generally accepted that Liverpool would launch the biggest challenge to champions City and that has been the case with the aesthetically pleasing outfits level at the top on 19 points.

There has been nothing to separate the sides in the first seven matches and it could be the same after 90 minutes on Merseyside with the draw offering the best value in a tricky game.

The teams are known for their attacking play, although Liverpool and City have conceded only three goals each, which could be important to remember in a crunch clash with plenty at stake even at this early stage.

Liverpool held the upper hand in the head-to-head meetings last term, dishing out a first league defeat of the season to City in a 4-3 thriller, before doing the business at home and away in the Champions League quarter-finals.

City crumbled at Anfield in the Champions League, losing 3-0, and they appeared to be spooked by the atmosphere which promises to be just as intimidating at a venue where the Manchester men have lost six in a row.

It also continued Jurgen Klopp's impressive record over Pep Guardiola. The German has won eight of their 14 duels, which is unlikely to be a coincidence seeing as the counter-attacking master's biggest strength just happens to be the greatest weakness of Pep's devotion to possession.

However, Liverpool will need to be at their absolute best to overcome arguably the best side in Europe and their recent heavy workload may count against the Reds.

It all started with a wonderful Wembley win over Tottenham and followed with an equally impressive show to see off Paris St-Germain on matchday one of the Champions League.

There was a breather in a Southampton stroll before a double-header with Chelsea and a Champions League trip to Napoli when Liverpool looked lethargic, barely registering a worthwhile attempt in a 1-0 defeat.

Maybe this big game will bring the best out of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, although it is equally possible that the hectic schedule has left its mark.

Liverpool have improved immeasurably over the past year as a defensive unit. Klopp's side last conceded a home league goal in February.

Even City will have a job on to find opportunities, particularly if they don't commit as many players to attack for fear of being hit on the break.

Guardiola's men are not quite so impressive with Kevin De Bruyne still working his way back to full fitness and if the teams are level heading into the final quarter it may turn into a contest that both sides are happy not to lose.

Recommendation
Draw

1pt 13-5 general

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Match in Focus

19:30 Mo 22Oct ELEV

Sampdoria v Sassuolo

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • Sassuolo are unbeaten in their last three against Sampdoria
Expert verdict
Sampdoria have the best defensive record this season in Italy, conceding just four goals in all competitions but they may struggle to beat a decent Sassuolo side. Samp's top scorer Gregoire Defrel will no doubt be eager to notch against his former club, although Sassuolo's only defeats this season have come at Juventus and Napoli and at home to Milan.