Liverpool have received a significant fitness boost as they look to bounce back from the first defeat of the Jurgen-Klopp era at the home of the Premier League leaders on Saturday. The Merseysiders have had two weeks during the international break to stew over a 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace, which ended a six-match unbeaten run to begin Klopp’s reign. A trip to the Etihad Stadium is hardly an ideal place to get back on track, but Liverpool may have cause for encouragement.
Daniel Sturridge is back in full training and looks set to be involved in some capacity. The striker has been ravaged by injury in the past 15 months, making just seven Premier League starts last season and appearing only three times this season before breaking down with a knee injury last month. While keen not to rush him back, Klopp is tempted by the chance to utilize the England international’s talents for the first time since taking charge.
“He is as fit as he can be after this long break,” Klopp said in his pre-match press conference, according to Liverpool’s official website. “He has trained with us. Of course he is not at 100 per cent, so now we will have to see. I don’t know what I will do tomorrow when I name the squad. I have to think about it.
“His quality is outstanding, we don’t have to talk about it, but like everybody he needs training. Today was his third full exercise with the team after four-and-a-half to five weeks' break. But as a striker sometimes five minutes are enough, so we’ll have to see. I have to decide this tomorrow -- and I’ll start thinking about it after the press conference.”
The likelihood is that Sturridge will start from the bench. With summer signing Christian Benteke now fully fit, Klopp has no reason to risk Sturridge breaking down once more. But it is encouraging for the former Borussia Dortmund coach that he now has far more options at his disposal than when he first took the reins. As well as Sturridge’s potential availability, James Milner and Kolo Toure have also returned to fitness. Looking further ahead, captain Jordan Henderson is also expected to be back in training next week.
The injury news for Manchester City is very much mixed. On the plus side, last season’s leading scorer Sergio Aguero is ready to return to action after sitting out the past six weeks with a hamstring injury. However, the news isn’t so positive about David Silva, who is still struggling with an ankle problem. Meanwhile, captain Vincent Kompany and striker Wilfried Bony will also miss the visit of Liverpool.
“Sergio is fit -- he’s ready to come back,” Pellegrini pre-match press conference. “David continues with some small sprain in his ankle so I think it’s a risk for him to play. Unfortunately also, Samir Nasri is injured. Bony and Vincent Kompany are also injured.
“We demonstrated this season that without Sergio, without important players, we can play. That’s why we have a squad. One of the merits of this team is not just to depend on one or two players but of course our team is better with Sergio.”
One player who is set to be in the Manchester City starting lineup is Raheem Sterling. The England forward completed a drawn-out transfer from Anfield in the summer, sand has scored six goals for City. On Saturday he is likely to come up against a player who made the switch the other way, the fit again Milner.
Prediction: With Benteke fully fit and Sturridge also an option at some stage, Liverpool have the potential to test a City defense missing the influential presence of Kompany. City have often struggled when missing their key players, and that could again be a problem. While Aguero is fit, it has in the past taken him time to get back up to full speed following injuries. But City have had a good balance, especially in midfield, of late and they have the extra quality to potentially edge a close game.
Predicted score: Manchester City 2-1 Liverpool
Kickoff time: 12:30 p.m. EST
TV channel: NBC
Live stream: NBC Sports Live Extra