Man City 4-0 Liverpool
- Goals: Kevin De Bruyne (£10.7m), Raheem Sterling (£11.7m), Phil Foden (£5.2m)
- Own Goals: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (£6.2m)
- Assists: Sterling x2, Foden, De Bruyne
- Bonus Points: De Bruyne x3, Sterling x2, Foden x1
Fantasy Premier League managers were given their first glimpse at Liverpool assets following last week’s long-awaited Premier League title win… and it was not pretty. Hope now rests on a fierce backlash for the upcoming Aston Villa match in Gameweek 33+.
After walking out to a guard of honour at the Etihad Stadium, Jurgen Klopp’s men were thumped 4-0 by Manchester City in one of the worst Liverpool displays of recent years.
We always expected a slight drop-off in quality from the Reds once the title was wrapped up, but very few would have predicted that this would manifest itself at the Etihad Stadium, where Liverpool had the chance to beat their title-rivals on the pitch as well as the table.
What followed was a performance of extremely poor defending and profligacy in the final third. While the game itself was relatively even for large spells, Manchester City were the side whose quality shone through in the key areas at both ends of the field.
“They used their chances – not all, but a lot – and we didn’t. So if City was 100 per cent deserving of course today, but a 5-3 or something like that would have been possible as well.” – Jurgen Klopp
Klopp strongly denied any criticism of his players’ attitudes at full-time, insisting only their focus was lacking in Gameweek 32+. Either way, the celebrations of the club’s first English top-flight title for 30 years are unlikely to have helped the preparation for this game.
“We didn’t behave like somebody who became champions a week ago. So like, it’s not important. It’s all good. We lacked fluidity, and that’s for sure, and in some situations – 50/50 situations – they were quicker than us in mind.” – Jurgen Klopp
The question hanging over Liverpool now is whether or not they will bounce back for the Gameweek 33+ visit of Aston Villa to Anfield. Well, there were certainly signs at the Etihad Stadium that they are capable of responding to this defeat.
It might be seven hours and 42 minutes since Liverpool’s last away goal in any competition, but five successive blanks on the road will mean nothing to them on home turf, even if there is no crowd to cheer them on.
Had Klopp’s men been handed slightly more luck against Manchester City, they might have been two goals to the good before Raheem Sterling (£11.7m) won a first-half penalty on Thursday evening.
Mohamed Salah (£12.6m) was responsible for both of these chances, drawing a save from Ederson (£6.0m) for a fourth-minute volley and striking the post after a 19th-minute counter on Manchester City’s high defensive line.
Sadio Mané (£12.5m) will also be kicking himself after getting into an unmarked position from close range in the 11th minute, only to nod a Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.8m) cross from deep into the ground.
Owners of both Salah and Mané are almost certain to hold onto Liverpool’s dangermen for Gameweek 33+ and a Gameweek 34+ trip to Brighton looks like a good a place as any to arrest their goalless run on the road. After all, this was the first time they have blanked in five away matches in all competitions since 1992. That has to end soon for a team as good as this one.
However, Fantasy managers may want to see some defensive improvements from Liverpool when Aston Villa come to Anfield, if nothing else, just to ease their minds.
For all the Reds’ excellent organisation at the back over the last two seasons, they were torn apart at ease by Pep Guardiola’s troops on Thursday night, with Andrew Robertson (£7.0m) and Joe Gomez (£5.3m) coming in for the lion’s share of the criticism.
The left-back was pulled out of position far too many times for a player of his quality, allowing Phil Foden (£5.2m) all the time he needed to slot in Manchester City’s third goal, while Gomez was run ragged by Sterling before Klopp replaced him with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (£6.2m) at half-time, almost as an act of mercy.
To put Liverpool’s Gameweek 32+ defending into context, this was the first time they trailed by three goals at half-time of a Premier League since May 2015, as they went onto lose to Stoke City on the final day of the season. The last time Klopp found himself 3-0 down at that stage of a league match was way back during his time at Mainz in 2007.
Meanwhile, Alexander-Arnold’s deduction of two points for conceding four times in a match is the first time that has happened since Gameweek 4 of the 2017/18 season, when he cost just £4.5m.
While the Reds’ attacking FPL assets appear safer from the risk of rotation for the next match, alterations to the back-line hardly feel out of the question, in light of some of their performances.
For example, Neco Williams (£4.0m) has impressed in his recent cameo appearances and would not look out of place operating in Alexander-Arnold’s role for Gameweek 33+.
Klopp arguably has less choice when it comes to tweaking his defensive set-up, now that Joel Matip (£5.2m) is out for the season and Dejan Lovren (£5.3m) missed the Manchester City game with an injury, so Gomez could earn a recall against Aston Villa. Alternatively, Fabinho (£5.4m) could reprise his role from the second half of Thursday night alongside Virgil van Dijk (£6.5m) if required.
However, it must be remembered that, from a defensive perspective, Liverpool’s upcoming fixtures remain promising with Aston Villa (home), Brighton (away) and Burnley (home) their next three opponents. Dean Smith’s men are certainly unlikely to match Manchester City’s attacking credentials in Gameweek 33+, having blanked in two of their four matches since the Premier League restart.
While Manchester City’s assets were the stars of Thursday night, their success comes with caveats of their own.
Kevin De Bruyne (£10.7m) was his usual imperious self, completely dominating proceedings with his goal and assist. He was at the heart of virtually every Manchester City attack and could have ended the game with a much higher score than he did.
The Belgian played Foden in for a decent blocked shot in the eighth minute, before sliding Gabriel Jesus (£9.6m) into a one-on-one with Alisson (£6.2m), which the Liverpool goalkeeper won.
De Bruyne exposed Robertson’s poor positioning once again midway through the first period, finding Jesus in space with an exquisite pass, only for the Brazilian to screw agonisingly wide.
The 50th minute saw another of De Bruyne’s near-assists. This time he was the one getting behind Robertson on the right, squaring to an onrushing Foden, whose clever attempt at goal was cleared off the line by van Dijk.
De Bruyne was then “robbed” of an assist when Sterling put away the fourth goal just after the hour, his slightly wayward shot from the Belgian’s excellent crossfield pass turned into the net by Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Then, substitute Riyad Mahrez (£8.5m) was put through the middle by De Bruyne in the closing stages but dragged wide.
“(De Bruyne is) a really good player. He has something unique. He can run, the vision he has. The personality right now, making four penalties in a row when we struggled this season with them. Right now he’s the best.” – Pep Guardiola
Crucially, De Bruyne got his 11th goal of the season, taking his FPL points tally for the season to 215, breaking his previous record of 209 (2017/18). That goal came from the penalty spot, as the former Chelsea man retains control of the spot-kicks, as well as a 100% record for them this season.
Even though he has averaged 9.3 points per game since the Premier League restart, De Bruyne owners may be somewhat concerned about the prospect of rotation for the Gameweek 33+ trip to Southampton.
With just two days for recovery, he played 90 minutes against Liverpool while David Silva (£7.3m) stayed on the bench all evening and Mahrez and Bernardo Silva (£7.7m) featured only as second-half substitutes.
The same caveat also applies to Foden, who is proving just how explosive he can be when he starts matches.
As much as De Bruyne was the key player at the Etihad Stadium, Foden was his more-than-capable side-kick, linking up well with his colleagues as part of Manchester City’s front-three, creating chances and sticking them away with composure beyond his years.
A 12-point haul against Liverpool was Foden’s second double-digit score in as many home starts and he is yet to blank in a match he has played some part in since the Premier League restart.
However, whether or not Foden can immediately reward managers who sign him for Gameweek 33+, of course, remains to be seen, considering he played 90 minutes on Thursday night.
“(Phil Foden) is a midfield player. In time he is going to learn to play holding midfielder even, because he can. When he takes the ball, he is aggressive against defenders, and shoots and scores. We cannot waste that. It is so difficult to find that quality.” – Pep Guardiola
By contrast, Mahrez’s benching arguably makes him the go-to Manchester City option for Sunday’s game, especially as he came close to further Fantasy returns against Liverpool. The Algerian snuck a powerful shot inside the near post during the closing stages, only to see it ruled out for a Foden handball in the build-up. That was a rather unfortunate way to see the goal chalked off which, had it stood, would have left Mahrez with attacking returns in every single match since the return of the Premier League. Particularly ominous as he will almost certainly start at St. Mary’s.
The same could be said of Sterling, perhaps to a lesser extent. He produced arguably his best performance of 2020 against Liverpool, spending some time at centre-forward again, and was brought off in the 78th minute, perhaps with one eye on Gameweek 33+. That said, the Englishman has been better at home recently, registering double-figures in each of his last two at the Etihad, but you have to go back to Gameweek 19 for his last attacking return on the road.
Finally, the weeks that followed Sergio Aguero‘s (£11.7m) injury have been not been kind to those hoping Jesus would become an auto-include for our Fantasy teams.
The Liverpool outing was only his second start since the Premier League came back and, to make matters worse, the Brazilian offered next to nothing.
Nothing summed up his evening more than the moment that earned him an early substitution in the 58th minute. Drifting out to the right-hand side, he played a square ball to nobody in particular, giving up possession to spark a Liverpool counter-attack. Instantly, Guardiola leapt up and ordered Mahrez to stop warming up so that he could come onto the pitch.
Manchester City XI (4-3-3): Ederson; Mendy, Laporte (Otamendi 79′), Garcia, Walker (Cancelo 73′); Rodrigo, Gundogan, De Bruyne; Sterling (B Silva 79′), Jesus (Mahrez 58′), Foden.
Liverpool XI (4-3-3): Alisson; Robertson, van Dijk, Gomez (Oxlade-Chamberlain 46′), Alexander-Arnold (N Williams 76′); Fabinho, Henderson, Wijnaldum (Keïta 62′); Mané, Firmino (Origi 62′), Salah.