Liverpool are the Premier League's best team but remain unconvincing
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Liverpool are flying - they're the best team in England and arguably the best in Europe too.
Jurgen Klopp's side are on a 28-game unbeaten streak in the league stretching back to last season and recently had their 17-game win streak halted by a draw against Manchester United.
Additionally, following their heroic late victory against Aston Villa on the weekend, no team has managed to claim more points (26) from losing positions in the last two seasons and no team has scored more goals in the last 10 minutes than Liverpool this season.
On Sunday, the Premier League's two best teams will square off at Anfield in what could be a massive decider in the title race. Liverpool are in a comfortable position with a six-point lead. If they win, their lead would extend to nine points and even if they lose, they'll remain three points clear.
Nevertheless, there is a slight cause for concern. While it is praiseworthy how the Reds have turned into proper "mentality monsters" by clawing out draws and victories from losing scenarios, it begs the question as why they find themselves in such positions in the first place?
35 - Sadio Mane scored the 35th 90th-minute winning goal by Liverpool in the Premier League, 10 more than any other side in the competition's history; five of those have come since the start of last season, more than any other team. Clutch. pic.twitter.com/xQ9C5H6izh
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 2, 2019
Liverpool seem to be allowing opponents more free reign this season and Klopp's team aren't pressing as regularly as they did last season. In the previous season, after 11 games, Liverpool had only conceded five goals and kept six clean sheets along the way. This season, they've conceded nine goals and kept just two clean sheets.
In the Champions League, their defensive record is even worse having conceded six goals in three matches. In some games, they have escaped with a victory by the skin of their teeth either by questionable refereeing, misfiring opposition strikers or both.
Part of Liverpool's defensive malaise can be allayed on losing Alisson Becker to injury early on in the season but that does not explain away the entire situation. Back in September, Liverpool emerged 2-1 victors over Frank Lampard's Chelsea; while the result may have appeared routine, the stats told a different story.
According to Understat, when analysing the xG (expected goals) for the match, it's clear that Chelsea had a higher probability of scoring and also had higher xPTS (expected points) for the game and yet came away with a loss. Liverpool meanwhile noticeably overperformed their xG and grabbed three points.
It appears that Liverpool have, one more than one occasion, clinched the result while playing unconvincingly and while it may grab headlines, these sort of performances cannot be sustained over the course of a season. Sooner rather than later, some team is going to come up trumps against Klopp's high-flying men.
But that is not to say that Liverpool can't get a result against Pep Guardiola's Manchester City on the weekend. City, for the first time in years, look vulnerable. After club legend Vincent Company left the Etihad in the summer, City have suffered repeated injury problems to their backline as Aymeric Laporte and John Stones found themselves sidelined and Pep was forced to choose between Rodri, Fernandinho and Otamendi at centre back. The results have been unconvincing to say the least and in some instances, disastrous.
Last year, after 11 games, City had conceded just four goals and kept seven clean sheets. This season, however, they've conceded more than double the goals (10).
Liverpool meanwhile are not lacking in the attacking department with their well-renowned front three in a purple patch of form. Sadio Mane, in particular, has been spectacular:
- 15 games
- 10 goals
- 5 assists
After 10 games last season, Liverpool and Man City were neck and neck on 26 points but this time, the Reds sit comfortably ahead. Additionally, Klopp has turned Anfield into an impregnable fortress over his four-year reign. Liverpool have won 15 games in a row at home going back to 0-0 against Bayern Munich last season, they are unbeaten in 23 European home games and have lost just once in 45 Anfield matches.
In the last 10 PL games at home where they conceded the first goal, they have failed to lose a single match. More astonishingly, they have not lost in their last 20 matches against the so-called 'Top Six' sides at Anfield.
Given the circumstances and Liverpool's momentum, it's hard to see City getting all three points on Sunday but stranger things have happened. Right now, with City's defensive frailties and shaky start, we expect Liverpool to edge out a result and extend their lead at the top of the table and that's why we recommend them as your pick.
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The fixtures for this week are below so we'll give you some help.
Leicester v Arsenal
(Saturday, 5.30 pm)
Third-placed Leicester will play host to fifth-placed Arsenal on Saturday. After 11 games, Brendan Rodgers's men have scored the second most number of goals (27) and conceded the fewest (8) leaving them just two points behind City in the table. In their last six games, they've lost just once to leaders Liverpool.
Arsenal meanwhile are a defensive shambles and have drawn their last two games in the league. They've already conceded 15 goals with the centre-back pairing of David Luiz and Sokatris failing miserably to secure the backline. Of their 16 goals scored, 50% (8) has come just from Aubameyang. In other words, they're struggling to get reliable offensive production from other members of the squad.
In 26 overall league meetings between these two sides, Leicester have won just three times but we expect that to change on Saturday. The most recent meeting back in April ended in a 3-0 pasting for Arsenal and given their scintillating form, you wouldn't count against Vardy and co to do the same at the King Power Stadium on the weekend.
Prediction: Leicester 2-0 Arsenal
Manchester United v Brighton
(Sunday, 2.00 pm)
This season, United are nothing more than a bang average side. Strip away the badge, the history and the trophies and what you're left with appears to be an imbalanced squad, an inexperienced manager, a misfiring front line and mortifying results. This team have won only three of their opening 11 PL games.
After losing to Newcastle last month, United embarked on a four-game unbeaten streak, winning three in the process, including knocking out in-form Chelsea from the League Cup. However, they've regressed to the mean after losing 1-0 to Bournemouth in their last outing leaving them 10th in the table with just 13 points. Hopes of a top-four finish are all but gone and they will do well just to seal a European place given their inconsistent results.
Brighton meanwhile have performed admirably so far, sitting two points above United in 8th place. Graham Potter's side have engineered some strong results including a 3-0 win over Tottenham last month. On Sunday, the Seagulls might trouble United's backline but given their poor away form, United would still be expected to come away with a narrow win.
Prediction: Manchester United 2-1 Brighton
Liverpool v Manchester City
(Sunday, 4:30 pm)
Finally, the juiciest, most anticipated and intriguing clash of the Premier League is very nearly upon us. England's two best teams will finally have a chance to duke it out for a decisive say over the Premier League trophy.
As data compiled by Footystats show, both teams are perfectly adept at scoring
As highlighted above, there is no doubt that we can expect goals in this encounter. The real question is who will be better on the defensive side of things? Liverpool have been the better defensive side of the two this season but not by much. In the entirety of their 28 game unbeaten streak, Liverpool have failed to go down by more than a goal.
Meanwhile, City have already lost half as many games this season as they did during the entirety of last season. Additionally, Pep's team have only faced one 'Top Six' side so far (Tottenham) and came away with a draw. Liverpool though, have faced four 'Top Six' teams and taken 10 out of a possible 12 points from those games.
Klopp's men are doing a lot of things right at the moment and given their form at home, the signs point to an entertaining encounter on Sunday and we expect Liverpool to come out with three points.
Prediction: Liverpool 2-1 Manchester City
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