A Daunting Task: Schalke Welcome a Champions League Terror

Schalke 04 vs Manchester City

It’s been a tough season for plenty of Schalke fans, and the season is still far from over. Their club is dangerously close to the drop zone, and it seems to the neutral fan that even the prospect of the team making the top half of the table is an impossible task in itself.

Fortunately for them, they have seen success in the Champions League after dominating in the group stages. However, it looks like their European excursions are coming to a premature close as they welcome a behemoth of an opponent to VELTINS-Arena.

Champions League 2019 odds heavily favour Manchester City to lift the Champions League trophy, and there’s little doubt as to why bookies gave them such odds. The Sky Blues are a supreme team made up of superb players who are coached by a stellar manager.

This is a story of two extreme trajectories, and it will be interesting to see if Schalke can pull off a miracle at home.

Talking Points

Do we Schalke it up as a loss?

A quick look to Schalke’s standing in the Bundesliga is the easiest barometer to help you understand just how terrible the team has been over the past four months.

It becomes especially baffling if we check the manner in which they dropped points. Embarrassing results against Freiburg, Werder Bremen, and Hertha Berlin aren’t doesn’t help in building any positive atmosphere in the locker room and among the stands. Losing at home to Bayern Munich doesn’t help, either.

Domenico Tedesco is desperate to lead Schalke 04 to victory when they battle Champions League favourites Man City

Schalke 04 manager Domenico Tedesco gestures to his players during their Bundesliga battle with Freiburg

The reason for their struggles in the season can be traced back to their inability to consistently score goals. You know that there’s trouble in Domenico Tedesco’s paradise when his squad’s top scorer is his right-back.

Fortunately for them, their poor run of form domestically has not affected their Champions League campaign. They could count themselves lucky to be playing alongside Porto, Galatasaray, and Lokomotiv Moskva in Group D. They quickly established themselves as group leaders and got enough points to help them reach the knockout stages.

However, the lack of a proper attacker is still evident in the European escapades. That is probably why they signed Manchester City youngster Rabbi Matondo to a four-year contract. The City academy product and Wales international would provide a fresh attacking option on the wing.

Things are still dire on their end, though. I believe only a few us fans would take a risk of them getting a positive result.

This is Manchester’s City now

I now ask you to take a look at the Premier League table this time and try to imagine Manchester City dropping points against Schalke. Can’t imagine anything? Because that is physically not possible.

The Sky Blues are the biggest supergroup in European football that many are considering them favourites to achieve the quadruple: bookies tip them to win the league, the league cup, the FA Cup and the Champions League.

The fact that they are not considered one of the round’s most interesting games is as much praise towards City as it is a knock on Schalke. It’s hard to not assume City as the easy winners of the round when you have players such as Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero, and Leroy Sane up front.

Pep Guardiola also has options if he wants to switch things up. Riyad Mahrez, Gabriel Jesus, Bernardo Silva, and David Silva were terrific in the group stages and will be huge problems Schalke’s flaky backline. They will certainly be a part of many Champions League 2019 highlights.

Just what do you do when you have such an impossible team as your opponent?

History

The two clubs have only met each other once, and that was in the 2007/08 Europa League group stage. Benjamin Mwaruwari and Stephen Ireland were the goalscorers in a game that saw City shut out their German rivals.

Their most recent form also tells us just how dominant Manchester City have been this season. Barring their freak loss to Newcastle United last month, the Sky Blues won their last six games in all competitions by at least two goals. The most impressive of the bunch was the 6-0 drubbing they handed Maurizio Sarri’s a week ago.

Meanwhile, Schalke are struggling to find any sort of stability in their form. They have alternated between wins, losses, and defeats in their last six games. Their 4-1 DFB-Pokal triumph over Fortuna Dusseldorf was encouraging, but that was followed up by an inevitable away loss to Bayern Munich and a disappointing tie against Freiburg at home.

Betting Tip

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Schalke 04 vs Manchester City Manchester City Asian Handicap -1.75 @ 2.05
 February 21, 04:00 (GMT+8)

I have to apologise to the most ardent Schalke fans out there, but I just don’t see Manchester United dropping points any time soon.

They are on a good run of form and have better players on their roster. City are succeeding on every front they are fighting in, and that in itself is a testament to how deep their squad is. Meanwhile, Schalke cannot stop opponents from scoring in their own net to save their lives.

I honestly don’t see Schalke stopping any of City’s talented attackers, and we will see evidence of that when they play. Tedesco can employ a three-in-the-back formation with wingbacks on support to try and hamper the City attack.

I still don’t think that would be enough, though. This may sound foolish, but the only way to stop them is to put six on the backline and have the remaining four figure out how to get past Guardiola’s intricate pressing system.

Honestly, just go pick City.

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Premier League: Manchester City go Top with Six of the Best

Manchester City 6-0 Chelsea

Manchester City returned to the top of the Premier League tonight with a stunning win, piling heaps of misery onto sorry Chelsea.

And it was a historic night for Sergio Aguero, who fired his 11th Premier League hat-trick, a feat bettered by no-one. Raheem Sterling added a brace as City simply destroyed a poor Chelsea side which, courtesy of the six goal swing, has dropped below Manchester United and Arsenal to sixth in the table.

After a 4-0 thumping at the hands of mid-table Bournemouth Maurizio Sarri admitted that he was struggling to motivate his players. Well we said that Chelsea were attempting the impossible at the Etihad, but I can’t say they made much of an attempt! Maybe Sarri is right.

Meanwhile, the Premier League 2019 betting odds are edging towards the title returning to the Etihad, and on this performance that makes a whole lot of sense.

Highlights of the game

This game was over in half an hour as the Sky Blues breezed into a four goal lead. It could have been more as the hosts blew the Blues away with some scintillating football. It took only four minutes for the Sky Blues to go ahead as the Chelsea defenders still looked to be finding their places. Kevin De Bruyne took a quick free-kick to Bernardo Silva who crossed for Raheem Sterling to fire home from ten yards. It was just too simple.

Hat-trick man Aguero missed an absolute sitter before he opened his account. Silva rolled the ball across the box and the unmarked City top scorer somehow screwed the ball wide from all of three yards! But minutes later he smashed one into the top corner from almost 30 yards out to give Kepa no chance in the Chelsea goal.

Raheem Sterling lead Manchester City in satisfying us tips and win against Chelsea

Raheem Sterling celebrates after opening the scoring

Only 19 minutes had gone when Aguero scored his second and City went 3-0 up; and it was a nightmare for Chelsea midfielder Ross Barkley, who tried to head the ball back to his keeper but it went straight into Aguero’s path and beat Kepa again.

The Chelsea defence was all over the place when City made it four on 25 minutes. A weak clearance from David Luiz reached Ilkay Gundogan on the edge of the penalty area and he fired low and true into the corner beyond the reach of the despairing keeper.

It’s hard to fathom, but Chelsea had a good share of the first half and plenty of possession in the hosts’ half. Gonzalo Higuain had the visitors’ best effort, hitting a beautiful dipping volley but Ederson was equal to it with a fingertip save.

Aguero came so close to his hat-trick just after the break heading a De Bruyne cross against the bar, but he didn’t have to wait long for his big moment. In an uncharacteristic moment, the normally excellent Cesar Azpilicueta fouled Sterling and the referee pointed to the spot.

Up stepped Aguero, to fire a perfect penalty into the corner, sending the keeper the wrong way. And that was enough for Pep Guardiola who pulled his big players off, substituting Aguero, De Bruyne and Fernandinho as some Chelsea fans made an early exit. The Blues did have another chance with a free kick but Emerson shot straight at Ederson.

And there was more pain for Chelsea on 80 minutes when Sterling, who opened the scoring, ended the proceedings with a cleverly chipped shot over Kepa and into the net.

Key Statistics

The weekend’s Premier League results kept City on their toes, with Liverpool and Spurs both winning, but this was an emphatic response.

Can Maurizio Sarri impress us Tips despite Chelsea players lacking of motivation?

Maurizio Sarri express disappointment in Chelsea’s performance vs Manchester City

Amazingly, Chelsea had over 48 per cent possession in the opening 45 and won the first half shot count by eight to five, but they found themselves 4-0 down! City was simply ruthless.

Today was all about Sergio Aguero. The Argentine has now equaled Alan Shearer’s Premier League record of 11 hat-tricks and he has scored an incredible 43 goals in 64 appearances against top six teams.

But sad Chelsea is yet to score an away goal in 2019.

What’s next?

The Champions League is back this week and we’re already making our us tips, so take a look tomorrow before the action starts on Tuesday.

Manchester City has a favourable draw against FC Schalke, not having the best of seasons in the Bundesliga. That game is next week, and before that the Sky Blues have an FA Cup tie away to Newport County.

With Manchester United’s resurgence under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Chelsea is now out of the Champions League places, and on this form the Blues will struggle to get back in. They play at home to the Red Devils in the FA Cup, but have a Europa League tie against Malmo to contend with before that.

 

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City hit Chelsea for six

Manchester City moved back to the top of the Premier League table in emphatic fashion, beating Chelsea 6-0 at the Etihad Stadium.

City were 4-0 up before half an hour, exposing the visitors defensive frailties to move back above Liverpool on goal difference.

Chelsea began the game by attempting to press high up the pitch but their tactics were undermined within the first five minutes, City taking the lead.

It was the recalled Kevin De Bruyne who began the move with a quick free kick which found Bernardo Silva and, with the Chelsea defence failing to react, crossed for Raheem Sterling to pounce and turn the ball past Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Sergio Aguero should have scored shortly afterwards but, after being set up by Silva, shot wide with the goal gaping.

However, Aguero and City weren't denied for long and he doubled City's lead on 13 minutes, Oleksandr Zinchenko losing possession but the ball fell to the Argentine who shot into the top corner from about 25 yards out.

All Chelsea's plans were in tatters and City continued to pour forward to test a stretched defence and were rewarded on 19 minutes, Aguero getting a rather more scruffy goal but again Chelsea failed to clear the ball from their own area.

With less than half an hour of the game gone it was 4-0 when Ilkay Gundogan took advantage of a poor clearance from Antonio Rudiger and shot home.

City made it five about 10 minutes into the second half, Aguero completing his hat-trick from the penalty spot. Cesar Azpilicueta was ruled to have brought Sterling down in the area and the striker made no mistake from the spot to compound Chelsea's misery.

City have a heavy fixture list in coming weeks, taking on Newport in the FA Cup, Schalke in the Champions League and Chelsea again in the EFL Cup final and Pep Guardiola made changes with those games in mind.

The game already won he took off Aguero and De Bruyne, replaced by Gabriel Jesus and Riyad Mahrez.

It looked as if City were winding down but Guardiola recently suggested the Premier League title race could come down to goal difference and City scored another before the end to be nine goals ahead of Liverpool, Sterling getting on the end of another excellent moving involving David Silva and Zinchenko.

That completed the scoring and City, having played a game more than Liverpool, are back above them at the top of the Premier League.

City are 8/11 to win the Premier League with Liverpool 6/5.

City are 13/8 to reach the final of the Champions League this season with Liverpool 4/1 and Manchester United 14/1.

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Premier League: Manchester City Eyeing to Repeat History, Again!

Everton vs Manchester City

Manchester City beat Everton twice in 2018 by a 3-1 scoreline. Now, the Sky Blues will look to replicate that success this 2019.

Pep Guardiola’s men are in a tight race with Liverpool for the Premier League title, and a win at Goodison Park will help them overtake the Reds at the top spot … at least for a few days or so.

Luckily for Manchester City, they couldn’t ask for a better time to face Everton, with the Toffees struggling after losing three of their last four games in all competitions.

Talking Points

Hectic schedule for the Sky Blues

Manchester City have woken up. After losing to Newcastle United in one of the most shocking Premier League 2019 results, they bounced back big and demolished Arsenal on Monday at the Etihad Stadium.

Remarkably, Sergio Aguero hit a hat-trick in the game, including a first-minute header that stunned the Gunners. Arsenal levelled matters quickly, but Guardiola’s men—led by the in-form Aguero—were just too much to handle.

Aguero now has 14 league goals to his name, and it doesn’t look like he’s stopping any time soon after scoring in their past four games in all competitions.

The problem now for Guardiola and City is how they will line up against Everton. After all, City are scheduled to play Chelsea three days after their visit to Merseyside.

Manchester City are nursing injuries to skipper Vincent Kompany and defender Benjamin Mendy, and while the two could recover in time against Everton, it’s hard for the team to plan out their roster with plenty of uncertainties.

Every game is a must-win for City, considering that they are the ones chasing for the top spot. With that said, tweaks or minutes restriction could be made against Everton, and that could either work or spell trouble for the team.

Everton and their battle against inconsistency

As mentioned, if there’s one advantage for the Manchester team in this game, it’s the fact that Everton have been struggling in recent weeks.

Put simply, the Toffees are the model of “inconsistency” in the English top-flight. After winning four, drawing three and losing just two times in their first nine league fixtures, Everton have now lost six of their last nine.

Everton have been struggling in the Premier League so far, winning only 2 of their last 5 matches

Marco Silva looking frustrated during Everton’s Premier League loss at home against the Wolverhampton Wanderers

Even more alarming, Marco Silva’s outfit has conceded 18 in that stretch, highlighted by the 2-6 drubbing they suffered at home before Christmas, at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur.

Everton haven’t also won against a top-six team in the first half of the campaign, losing to Liverpool, City, Tottenham, Manchester United and Arsenal and drawing with Chelsea.

Most recently, the Toffees bowed down to seventh-placed Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-3. That game was also played at Goodison.

Silva, who is now under increasing pressure due to the club’s recent performances, have encouraged his team to stay motivated. And they can certainly use it as they try to end their skid.

“For me, motivation is like obligation,” Silva said, via The Guardian. “When you are professional and working in a club like Everton, the obligation is to be motivated, to be focused. You can perform well and you can have a fantastic afternoon, and everything comes good to you. But if not then the players are on the pitch and they have to solve the problem in that moment with our plan. So when you are talking to me about ambition or motivation or focus, then to me that is the obligation of the player.”

History

Two 3-1 losses to Manchester City aren’t that encouraging for Everton though.

In their meeting last December, Guardiola’s charges scored two second-half goals to consolidate their victory.  Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling both found the back of the net back then, with the former scoring twice including their opening goal.

Meanwhile, in their last visit to Goodison, the Sky Blues ran riot with three first-half goals. Leroy Sane scored as early as the fourth minute followed by Jesus eight minutes later. Sterling added another one just moments before the break.

Everton won 4-0 against Manchester City in 2017, but that was their only league win against the reigning champions since 2013.

Betting Tip

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Everton vs Manchester City Asian Handicap Manchester City -1.75 @ 2.12
February 7, 03:45 (GMT+8)

The Premier League 2019 betting odds, as expected, favour the champs. Asian Handicap Betting at us even suggests a one-sided affair—just like their recent encounters.

It’s hard to argue with the odds given the form of the two teams. It’s always enticing to back the underdog in a battle of famous clubs, but betting against Manchester City this time might be a foolish move.

There’s always a certain increase in motivation for teams when playing against the champions, but I’m not counting on Everton to do it. They just seem out of sorts right now.

Everton’s defence is suspect, and I expect City to take advantage of that.

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Timing is Everything in the Premier League!

Manchester City 3-1 Arsenal

How very lax!

Manchester City took 46 seconds to break the deadlock in this one – a whole 22 seconds longer than it took them to open the scoring against Newcastle in midweek.

Unlike then, however, the reigning champions were in no mood to surrender this lead.

They are determined not to relinquish the Premier League crown as shown by a start which stunned many us fans, as well as Arsenal themselves.

Coach Unai Emery just stared on in disbelief, helpless at what he had seen.

Highlights of the game

To their credit, the opener – the unmarked Sergio Aguero heading home Aymeric Laporte’s cross after the Spaniard dispossessed Alex Iwobi – didn’t lead to the floodgates being opened.

Aguero was unfortunate not to be awarded a penalty after being hauled down by Shkodran Mustafi shortly afterwards, while only an offside flag denied Laporte a second goal.

Then, with their first attack, the shell-shocked Gunners were level and it was City’s turn to be stunned.

Nacho Monreal flicked on a Lucas Torreira corner and Laurent Koscielny, returning from an injury sustained only nine days ago, was this time left unmarked and made no mistake.

As Premier League 2019 highlights go, has there been a more thrilling start to a game since the turn of the year?

City had actually started the match in third place following Spurs’ victory over Newcastle yesterday and were aiming to win a fourth consecutive top-flight game against the Gunners – a feat they last managed from 1935-37.

However, they weren’t in the best of form having lost four of their nine Premier League away matches – as many defeats as in their previous 72 matches (won 56, drawn 12).

They had also been beaten in three of their last seven Premier League games when they have scored first – they had lost just three of their previous 96 matches after taking a 1-0 lead.

In their favour, Arsenal were winless in their last 20 league games away to the other sides in the established top six since a 2-0 win at the Etihad Stadium in January 2015 – losing 10 of 12 such fixtures.

Despite dominating possession, the equaliser certainly took City by surprise after such a relentless start.

Indeed, had Ederson not been more alert nine minutes before the break, Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang would have been clean through as the hosts’ early momentum was disrupted.

Just when it seemed Pep Guardiola would cut a frustrated figure at the break, Aguero proved his top-class status yet again.

Ilkay Gundogan played a one-two with Raheem Sterling and the England man’s low first-time cross found Aguero at the back post who tapped home with aplomb.

The victory was sealed just after the hour.

Sterling again was the provider and, while Bernd Leno got a touch, Aguero completed his hat-trick, albeit via his elbow.

Arsenal’s complaints were justified but there was no arguing against the scoreline.

City are two points off the pace – for now at least – and in Aguero have the Premier League’s finest performer.

After Cristiano Ronaldo left Manchester United in 2009, the tag of the world-class Premier League star waned for a few years.

Since Aguero moved to the other side of the city in 2011, he has fulfilled that with arrogant ease.

What a player!

Key statistics

Aguero has now scored the two fastest Premier League goals this season – both in the past week.

Aguero has 10 goals in 12 games against the Gunners and 10 Premier League hat-tricks. Only Alan Shearer (11) has more.

Aguero has been directly involved in 27 goals in his last 16 Premier League home starts (24 goals, five assists).

Guardiola is unbeaten in 12 games as a manager against Emery (won eight, drawn four), while Arsenal haven’t kept a Premier League clean sheet on the road this season.

Unai Emery's Arsenal have moved down to sixth place of the Premier League rankings

Arsenal manager Unai Emery giving instruction to his players from the touchline

They also have lost the last four meetings with City in all competitions, conceding 14 goals and scoring just twice.

City have won their previous six home games in league and cup.

Arsenal have lost 12 of their last 20 away league games (won five, drawn three), with their sole clean sheet coming in a 1-0 win at Huddersfield in May.

Emery’s side are without a win in their last six top-flight away games (drawn two, lost four), with their last victory coming at Bournemouth on November 25.

What’s next?

As the Premier League 2019 betting odds fluctuate, the tough games keep coming for City. They are at Goodison Park on Wednesday night to face Everton before returning to the Etihad to take on Chelsea a week today (February 10).

Arsenal travel to bottom club Huddersfield next weekend and then return to European action by visiting BATE Borisov on February 14 in the Europa League.

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Aguero treble hands City win

Sergio Aguero fired a hat-trick of poachers finishes as Manchester City closed in on leaders Liverpool with a 3-1 win over Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium.

The Premier League champions have cut the gap on Liverpool to two points with their win, though the Reds can respond when they face West Ham on Monday evening at the London Stadium.

Just as he was in midweek at Newcastle, Aguero was on the scoresheet in the opening minute – taking 50 seconds before he headed home from six-yards after Arsenal had failed to clear their lines and allowed Aymeric Laporte pick out the Argentine with his cross from the left.

It was almost deeper trouble minutes later when Shkodran Mustafi appeared to drag Aguero to the floor in the penalty box but Martin Atkinson waved play on.

Arsenal grabbed that reprieve with both hands when Laurent Koscielny powered a header home from Nacho Monreal's set-piece delivery after 11 minutes.

The Gunners were on course for parity at the interval but City carved them open on 43 minutes.

Ilkay Gundogan and Raheem Sterling were the architects, leaving Aguero with the easiest of far-post tap-ins to make it 2-1 at the break.

Sterling was the provider once again just beyond the hour, his low cross connecting with the sliding Aguero and just creeping over the line despite the efforts of Bernd Leno. Arsenal may feel that it was Aguero's arm which made the difference in steering the ball goalwards.

The match-winner suggested it was a crucial win having lost 2-1 despite that quick start at Newcastle while Aguero admitted after seeing replays that it looked like hand ball for his hat-trick moment.

"It was important to win. The other day I scored early and we lost, today I am very happy," he told Sky Sports.

"I think it came off my chest, but now I see on TV it was a handball."

Manchester City are now 11/8 to retain the Premier League title, with Liverpoo 8/13 to end their famine. The Reds meanwhile are 11/1 to beat West Ham 3-1 on Monday night.

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Guardiola admits to transfer fears

Manchester City head coach Pep Guardiola accepts that his club face ever greater competition to try and secure the services of top-class new signings.

The Citizens have built their recent successes on being able to recruit the likes of Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne, but Guardiola is aware that the financial advantage which may have been in play in the past is not so evident now.

He told reporters: "Before, the rumours were that it was just PSG and Manchester City. That is over – everybody can pay a lot in fees and wages.

"The reality is that it's not just one or two teams paying a lot on wages. There are many, many, many.

"There are many (clubs) and sometimes we can't compete with that. We have to be quicker, faster and don't get nervous. At the end, we want players who want to come here.

"It's difficult to buy top, top players at a good price, it's almost impossible. Maybe we have to trust in the young players and help them develop their own personality here.

"I think we try to keep the harmony in the locker room with the wages. When you have no balance with that, then there is always a problem with the mood in the locker room.

"One of the good things that City have done is keeping that balance."

The Citizens are available at 6/5 to retain their Premier League title this season, while they are 7/2 to win the Champions League for the first time in their history.

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Guardiola: Victory was a must

Manchester City head coach Pep Guardiola admitted that defeat to Liverpool on Thursday evening would have all but ended their hopes of Premier League glory.

Instead, the Citizens are right back in the hunt after goals from Sergio Aguero and Leroy Sane secured a 2-1 victory over the Reds at the Etihad Stadium and moved City to within four points of the league-leading Merseysiders.

And Guardiola accepted that victory had become something of a necessity following recent defeats to Crystal Palace and Leicester City.

He told BBC Sport: "We lost two games in four days, but you can't forget what they have done for 16 months. We knew that it was a final, if we lose it is almost over.

"All credit to these incredible players. We knew that if we won we would be in contention to fight for the Premier League, if we lose it is over.

"They are leaders – it is four points but we have reduced the gap. I don't remember a league so tough, there are so many huge contenders fighting for the title. Every game is a final.

"I respect what Tottenham are doing, in the last games Manchester United are coming back, and of course Chelsea and Arsenal with new managers.

"Jurgen Klopp will not agree, but for the Premier League it is a good result."

City take a break from league action this weekend as they play host to Rotherham United in the FA Cup third round on Sunday.

The two sides last met in the 2001/02 season in the Championship, when the game in Manchester ended 2-1 to the hosts.

The Citizens are 1/12 to win in 90 minutes on Sunday, are 6/1 to claim a 3-0 victory and are 8/13 to keep a clean sheet.

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Aguero aims to keep run going

Sergio Aguero hopes he can continue his excellent goalscoring record against Liverpool when Manchester City entertain the Premier League leaders.

The Argentina international, who has scored in all six of his home Premier League appearances against the Reds, including one in last season's 5-0 victory against Jurgen Klopp's team, is 5/6 to score at any time in Thursday's crunch clash.

Aguero, who has never scored at Anfield, found the net in Sunday's 3-1 victory at Southampton, a result that left City seven points behind the unbeaten Reds.

He has now scored 249 goals in his career, but said: "I'm not the type of guy who keeps a tally of that kind of thing.

"Of course, I want to score as much as I can to help the team win, and if that's the way it panned out against Liverpool so far, then I hope I can keep the streak going at the Etihad in this meeting – and dispel it when we next face them at Anfield.

"Football always gives a chance to even the score. Our focus should be on our own game. We are confident in our playing style and we believe it's the most effective way to lead us to victory.

"December didn't pan out the way we wanted it to and now we've got more ground to make up so, yes, that makes the game even more important."

City are 21/20 to win Thursday's match and 7/4 to lift the Premier League title for the second campaign in a row.

Pep hails ‘important’ win

Pep Guardiola conceded it was 'important' that Manchester City had secured a 3-1 win over Southampton at St Mary's on Sunday.

The Premier League champions had lost their previous two games against Crystal Palace and Leicester City, slipping ten points behind unbeaten league leaders Liverpool in doing so.

With the Reds coming to the Etihad Stadium on Thursday evening for a bumper collision, Guardiola acknowledged it was important to have reduced their arrears to seven points.

Man City went in front early on through David Silva but the hosts responded when Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg took the ball off Oleksandr Zinchenko and blasted home.

City had luck on their side when Raheem Sterling's shot deflected off James Ward-Prowse to make it 2-1 before Sergio Aguero's header increased the lead in stoppage time at the end of the first half.

It could have been more for the champions on the chances they created, but Guardiola was content after finding opponents in excellent goalscoring form of late.

"It was important to win after two defeats and the players did what they had to do. If one team achieves 100 points and then the year after make 45 in the first round it is not all bad," said the City boss.

"Before 1-1 we played to score more, then they scored and the game was more equal but we carried on and scored the second goal. In previous games we did everything, and the first time the opponent arrived in our half they scored."

City are 13/8 to retain their crown this season, while Jurgen Klopp's team are now 4/7 after their fine Christmas run.

Man City can cut the gap to four points if they emulate Liverpool's feat from last season of ending the Premier League's only unbeaten run come the month of January by winning on Thursday. Liverpool beat City 4-3 at Anfield then, with City 66/1 to return the same scoreline.

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