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Liverpool about to get player Man City fear most back from injury at perfect time

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Man City’s victory over Manchester United sets up a huge Premier League clash with Liverpool at Anfield next weekend.

There hasn’t been much opportunity for a breather for Liverpool’s players during recent weeks. But Sunday offered a rare chance to rest weary limbs after the hard-earned and dramatic first-ever Premier League victory at Nottingham Forest.

And it also allowed those who were so inclined to take in the Manchester derby while putting their feet up.

The Reds, of course, had more than a vested interest in proceedings at the Etihad. As well as entertaining fellow title rivals City next Sunday, the following weekend Jurgen Klopp’s side make the short trip down the East Lancs Road to take on their bitter North West rivals United at Old Trafford in the FA Cup quarter-finals.

Few watching would have been surprised at City having come from behind to dismiss their neighbours, in much the same way Liverpool would expect Arsenal to see off Sheffield United comfortably at Bramall Lane on Monday night. Between them, since mid-January the three championship contenders have won 19 of 21 league games, and one of those failures was because two of them, Arsenal and Liverpool, were facing each other.

Such relentlessness has become second nature for City in recent years, while the Gunners, battle-hardened by last season’s ultimately fruitless title challenge, have benefited from the return of some key players. The reshaped Liverpool have not enjoyed quite the same fortune, but have still managed to keep chiselling out the results.

Klopp allowed a little insight into his view of the Reds’ injury crisis with his comments after Saturday’s game, a fourth victory in 11 days after a comeback Premier League win over Luton Town, the League Cup final triumph against Chelsea and FA Cup progress against Southampton.

“If you asked me 12 days ago if it was possible to win all four, I would have said no,” said the Liverpool boss. “But the boys made it happen.”

Indeed, Klopp knows such results are not sustainable in the long run with the resources he has had available. So while key players such as Alisson Becker, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Curtis Jones and Diogo Jota won’t be back any time soon, there was some significant relief in Wataru Endo, Dominik Szoboszlai and matchwinner Darwin Nunez all returning from the bench at the weekend.

And there could be one more high-profile returnee by the time City arrive at Anfield. It’s worth bearing in mind Liverpool’s success since the turn of the year has come predominantly without their best player and leading goalscorer, Mohamed Salah limited to just one 46-minute appearance in the past two months when stepping off the bench at Brentford. That the Egyptian scored one goal and assisted another during his cameo was a reminder of his unrivalled importance to the team.

Everything points to Salah being available again for the visit of City, although Liverpool sending a letter to the Egyptian FA requesting the forward be left out of their international games later this month suggests the muscle issue remains a potential concern.

Salah loves it when City come to town, having scored in five of the six previous home Premier League clashes between the teams during his Anfield career, along with one in the home leg of the Champions League quarter-final back in 2018. He is the one remaining forward from the triumvirate that so frightened Pep Guardiola ahead of that fixture, and remains the player the City boss fears most.

During the Klopp-Guardiola era, Liverpool have never before had the better of City head-to-head in a single Premier League season. However, having eked out a 1-1 draw at the Etihad back in November, they are in a good position to rectify that shortcoming, particularly having not lost at home to City in front of supporters since 2003.

City, though, have won 11 successive games on the road – including two at the Club World Cup – since their last Premier League reverse, a 1-0 loss at Aston Villa in December.

With 10 games still to play after next weekend, the game won’t determine the destination of the title. But the impact will linger, particularly with Liverpool not playing another Premier League game for three weeks.

Klopp will ensure minds remain focused on the next task in hand, the Europa League round of 16 first leg at Czech League leaders Sparta Prague on Thursday. But even that team selection will be influenced by the visit of City three days later. The countdown to next Sunday’s Anfield showdown starts now.

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