Liverpool vs Man City, Salah vs Sterling: What to expect in GW12

So, GW12 is undoubtedly going to be one of the weeks that will give FPL managers the biggest headaches this season so far. With it being a classic top 2 clash, it can be tough to pick which assets should play in this match.

I’ll be trying to break down the reasons why you should be picking players from a certain position, and what is really going on with Mo Salah and Raheem Sterling…

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The Defence

It can’t be doubted that City have the better defensive record, on the whole, of the two teams, with their 5 clean sheets in the first 11 games being a record only equalled by Sheffield United.

However, City have actually conceded more goals that Sunday’s opponents, as Liverpool have conceded 9, in comparison to City’s 10. However, the Reds’ clean sheet record lets them down massively, with just 2 clean sheets on the board so far.

What Liverpool can say, however, is that in the league, they haven’t conceded more than one goal in any match this season. This is made to seem more impressive by the fact that they’ve played all of Tottenham, Chelsea, Leicester, Arsenal and Man Utd already; of which, at least 2 can consider themselves close to being able to challenge the top 2.

City however, haven’t been the dominating force that we’ve seen in recent seasons, and have already fallen to both Wolves and Norwich early on this season, conceding 2 and 3 goals in each game respectively, as well as conceding 2 to Tottenham in GW2. Their other 3 goals were conceded in 3 different games.

Still, conceding less than a goal per game on average is nothing to disregard quickly, and both teams go into this clash with very neat defensive records.

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The Attack

City, once again, look much the better side on goals scored so far this season, having scored a league-high 34 goals this season so far. They have also failed to score just once in all competitions this season; that being in the 0-2 defeat to Wolves.

For Liverpool, their tally amounts to 25 goals so far this season, but they haven’t failed to score in the league this season. The only occasion where they’ve failed to score in all competitions was in a dismal looking 2-0 loss at Napoli in the Champions League.

City, however, do have 2 of the league’s top 5 scorers in their ranks, in Sergio Aguero (9) and Raheem Sterling (7). These two both have more goals than Liverpool’s top scorer, who is currently Sadio Mané on 6 goals.

Mo Salah comes in on 5 goals, while Roberto Firmino has notched 3 goals this season, which is the same amount as City’s other striker, Gabriel Jesus. So overall, it doesn’t look as likely that the Reds can do the damage that Pep Guardiola’s men could do.

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Now, a stat which might be good to know, is about City conceding attacking returns to defenders. In their 11 games so far, Seamus Coleman is the only defender to have made an attacking return against Man City, as he assisted Calvert-Lewin for Everton’s goal when the sides met at the end of September.

So it’s not exactly like we can say that the full-backs are the problem for City; but there again, not all of them can take set-pieces like a certain Trent Alexander-Arnold.

TAA has racked up a goal and 3 assists (plus 1 “FPL” assist) so far this season, which is impressive going for any full-back.

We’ve seen City struggle at times against set-pieces this season (with the most analysed example being the opener at Norwich), and with doubt still being cast over whether their centre-backs are fit to play the full 90 minutes, it’s possible that they could struggle to cope with the height that Liverpool bring into the box at corners.

It’s also worth noting that City also tend to be vulnerable defending against the counter attack. They seemed somewhat exposed against Norwich, and they were truly exploited by Nuno Espirito Santo’s decision to push Adama Traore up front during Wolves’ visit to the Etihad Stadium.

With the pace of Salah and Mané being a perennial danger, it might well be possible that we see the counter attack utilised by Jurgen Klopp.

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Mo Salah and Raheem Sterling

These two were staples in the FPL template team during pre-season, but many have lost faith in them after weeks of poor returns.

Their numbers are still up there with the best, with Salah getting 5 goals and 3 assists in 10 appearances, while Sterling has amassed 7 goals and 1 assist in the same number of matches.

Both players nearly always look as though they can be absolutely deadly in any situation, but if they don’t look that way, they also have managers who are more than willing to sub them off, shown last week especially by Klopp when he subbed Salah after just 65 minutes with his side a goal down.

It is worth noting that 2 of Salah’s goals have been penalties this season, which can both increase and decrease his potential, depending on which way you look at it.

On the one hand, he’s almost certainly first choice on penalties (unless James Milner pops up and says otherwise), but on the other, he goes into this game having only scored 3 goals in open play, against a team who haven’t given away a penalty this season.

Salah’s battle will be with City’s left-sided defender, who will either be the returning Benjamin Mendy, who played 90 minutes in midweek against Atalanta, or the slightly naïve-looking Angelino, who hasn’t exactly impressed in the games I’ve watched him play in a City shirt.

I think Salah, as well as his owners, will be hoping to see the Spaniard get the nod, as this is, in my view, the Egyptian’s best chance of scoring big points against City.

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In terms of Sterling, who I’ve seen make a home for himself more on the left side in recent weeks, he faces up against Trent Alexander-Arnold, who, as we all know, loves a good foray forwards.

What Sterling will be looking to do is capitalise on the space that his fellow England international leaves on the flank, and look to initiate a quick counter, from which he can try to rack up some goals and assists.

While his record isn’t great against his former club (1 goal and 2 assists in 10 games, all competitions), Sterling does have a clear chance of success against a Liverpool side whose full backs can leave them a little exposed.

Final Say

This game can be difficult to predict, as we’ve seen thrilling 4-3 encounters and tight, tactical 1-0 or 0-0s, but despite the fixture, both Sterling and Salah should see chances to add to their attacking returns. They’re that expensive for a reason and there are clear routes into the points for both as demonstrated above. 

Both defences haven’t been at their best this season so I expect to see a game with goals in. 

I would hold Sterling, given that Agüero seems to be rotating with Jesus much more. Raheem can explode massively (as we have already seen in PL and in other competitions) at any stage. You don’t want to be in a position where you don’t own him when he’s hitting a crazy 20 pointer!

But with Salah, I think Mané is proving the better of the two, so I would probably switch here as Salah really doesn’t seem to be performing at the level we know he can currently. Of course, I do expect this will change and he’ll hit form at some stage but right now, Mané’s the one getting the better chances and putting them away and Salah is the one shooting in volume, but from weaker positions than Mané.

Meanwhile, in terms of other popular players, Kevin De Bruyne is yet to score against Liverpool in 8 appearances against them, and has managed just 3 assists in that time.

Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino has one of the better records against City, with 5 goals and 5 assists in 12 games, and he will be looking to capitalise on a central defensive partnership that may well contain Fernandinho again.

Firmino is massively under-appreciated in FPL, with many using their 3 Liverpool slots on the likes of Robertson, TAA, Mané and Salah. But Firmino is their creative hub, dropping in as a false 9 and creating chances, as well as scoring them.

The Brazilian has 3 goals and 3 assists so far this season, and it’s possible that he can kick on against one of his favourite PL opponents. Well worth a punt, in my view.

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