Part of the Phil Foden success story is that he is making himself invaluable in too many different positions. His brilliant cameo of him on the right against Atletico Madrid, which swung the Champions League quarter-final in Manchester City’s favour, gave Pep Guardiola another option.
But Foden was man of the match playing on the left side of attack when the Blues drew 2-2 at Anfield in October, and has been the best of the various players tried in the false nine role this season. In the away game with Liverpool, he was pitted against stand-in right-back James Milner and destroyed the former Blue.
But with Trent Alexander-Arnold fit again, Guardiola could pick Jack Grealish or Raheem Sterling on the left and central Foden, or even mix it up on the day. Whatever set-up he chooses, Foden is City’s key man in attack.
ALSO READ: we pick a combined Man City-Liverpool XI
Guardiola was still seeing with Kyle Walker after his daft red card in a meaningless group game in RB Leipzig meant he missed the midweek first leg with Atletico Madrid. But he is almost sure to be welcomed back into the starting XI for this game, with Joao Cancelo switching to left-back, and his pace from him will be needed against a swift Liverpool front line.
Joao v Mo
Joao Cancelo has been a revelation as an attacking, inverted full-back in the last 18 months, but questions remain over his defending. That was never more the case than at Anfield when he was at fault for both Liverpool goals, exposed by Mo Salah’s brilliance from him.
To be fair, specialist defenders have found Salah more than a handful, so it is no disgrace, but Cancelo needs to get to grips with the Egyptian ace, even if Salah has been out of form lately.
City fans have become used to the same script at the Etihad: their team hammering away at opponents who retreat into the final third and, if they are bold enough, hurting them on the counter. The visit of Liverpool is always a refreshing change from that attack-vs-defence scenario, and the fact the Merseysiders need three points to change the landscape at the top of the table makes it even more interesting.
Liverpool are one of a small handful of teams on the planet with the ability to pit themselves against City on an equal footing – and that means it will either be a classic or a bore draw!
Guardiola claims he has become a calmer figure on the sidelines this season, less tough on his player and less likely to get into hot water with the officials. Jurgen Klopp remains the same – jovial and eloquent when winning, quite a piece of work when not.
The scenes on the sidelines in such a big game will be fascinating with so much at stake. Maybe Sky should consider installing a Manager Cam to keep tabs!
Sign up to our City newsletter so you never miss an update from the Etihad Stadium this season.
Catch up on all the latest Blues headlines in our Man City section