PREVIEW-Soccer-Man City out to hand Liverpool reality check in Anfield showdown

Credit: REUTERS/Jason Cairnduff

By Martyn Herman

LONDON, March 7 (Reuters) - There is a sense of destiny around Liverpool as the final act of Juergen Klopp's trophy-laden Anfield reign plays out, but on Sunday the seemingly unstoppable force that is Manchester City will seek to deliver a reality check.

An intriguing three-way Premier League title race arrives at a potentially pivotal point as Klopp's leaders welcome reigning champions City with top spot at stake and games running out.

A Liverpool victory would move them four points clear of City with 10 games left and potentially two points clear of Arsenal who host Brentford on Saturday knowing victory would put them provisionally on top of the table.

Should City, whose 20-game unbeaten run in all competitions is giving them a familiar air of invincibility, win they will be firm favourites to go on and claim a record fourth successive title and stay on course for an unprecedented double treble.

A draw, as happened at The Etihad Stadium earlier in the season, could leave Arsenal in the driving seat.

It would be a stretch to describe Sunday's encounter as a 'title decider' as each of the three teams involved face numerous hurdles down the final stretch -- but Sunday's clash and Arsenal's trip to City on March 31 will be crucial.

"Liverpool and Arsenal both have Man City in the next few weeks and they can't look upon anyone else to help them," Manchester United's multiple former title winner Gary Neville said. "They have to go and win."

A likely last Premier League meeting between Klopp and Pep Guardiola will make for compulsive viewing.

Their 29-match rivalry began in the Bundesliga and has continued in England and Sunday's duel will be the 16th between them in the Premier League.

With City, Guardiola has got the better of Klopp five times with Klopp enjoying four victories, although Liverpool have won only one of the last eight league meetings between them.

The way Klopp has overcome a lengthy injury list since the turn of the year, delivered a League Cup final victory and kept Liverpool on course in the Premier League, FA Cup and Europa League has conjured thoughts of a magical Merseyside farewell.

Liverpool will be boosted by the return of Mohamed Salah at the weekend while Wataru Endo, Dominik Szoboszlai and Darwin Nunez are all back in action after injuries.

Apart from the sidelined Jack Grealish, City have had no such injury worries with both Kevin De Bruyne and Erling Haaland fully firing again after spells out.

Haaland was on target in City's 3-1 victory over Copenhagen as they reached the Champions League quarter-finals on Wednesday to stay on course for a repeat of last season's treble.

With so much focus on Sunday's clash at Anfield, in-form Arsenal can steal a march on their title rivals at home to a struggling Brentford side on Saturday.

Unlike last season when Mikel Arteta's side were beginning to falter as they went toe-to-toe with Manchester City, Arsenal are showing no sign of buckling.

They have won seven successive league matches and scored 31 goals in the process, including 6-0 defeats of West Ham United and Sheffield United and a 3-1 defeat of Liverpool.

The battle to finish in the top four also heats up this weekend with fourth-placed Aston Villa hosting Tottenham Hotspur in a tasty Sunday appetiser.

The weekend action will be bookended by two clubs whose managers are again under intense pressure.

Erik Ten Hag's Manchester United face Everton in Saturday's early game hoping to bounce back from consecutive league defeats while Mauricio Pochettino's Chelsea host Newcastle United on Monday.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman Editing by Toby Davis)

((martyn.herman@thomsonreuters.com; +442075427933; Reuters Messaging: martyn.herman@thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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