Man City v Liverpool: Micah Richards and Peter Crouch verdict ahead of MASSIVE title showdown


Manchester City host Liverpool on Sunday in what could be a defining clash in the race for the Premier League title. 

Reigning champions City are one point ahead of Jurgen Klopp’s chasing Reds, but have an inferior goal difference – meaning the Etihad showdown is likely to swing the momentum.

So Sportsmail columnists Micah Richards and Peter Crouch, formerly of City and Liverpool respectively, have delivered their verdicts on the big game.

Big Meeks and Big Pete revealed whether they would rather play under Pep Guardiola or Klopp, picked their combined XIs from the two teams and announced how they think the match will go…

Sportsmail columnists Micah Richards and Peter Crouch have delivered their verdict ahead of the potentially Premier League title-deciding Manchester City vs Liverpool clash on Sunday

Back in October, Liverpool's Mo Salah (second left) scored a stunner in a thrilling 2-2 draw

Back in October, Liverpool’s Mo Salah (second left) scored a stunner in a thrilling 2-2 draw

Former Manchester City defender Micah Richards

Ex-striker Peter Crouch used to play for Liverpool

Richards (left) and Crouch (right) used to play for Manchester City and Liverpool respectively

WHO WOULD YOU PREFER TO PLAY FOR — KLOPP OR GUARDIOLA?

CROUCH: That’s a tough one to start — thanks.

RICHARDS: (puffs out his cheeks): Isn’t it just? Dear me…

CROUCH: It’d be an honour to work for either but I know Klopp better. I’ve met him and he’s exactly how you see him on TV. I look at the enjoyment on the faces of the Liverpool players and I’d probably prefer to play for him. But you’d be on the top of your game for either manager.

Any striker would score a bagful of tap-ins for City or Liverpool. Playing up there for City might be similar to when I was at Tottenham with Luka Modric, Gareth Bale, Aaron Lennon and Rafael van der Vaart around me. You’ve just got to get yourself in the box and if you were clever, there are 30 goals a season there for you.

RICHARDS: From a learning point of view, I would go with Guardiola. I’d love to see if I could play in that system and do the things that he asks his full backs to do. I was never as technically gifted as someone like Joao Cancelo, for instance, but I had speed like Kyle Walker.

My job was to run down the outside and get to the byline, Guardiola loves his full backs to cut inside and become midfielders. You’d learn so much. But, like you Crouchie, I love Klopp, I love how he deals with his players and the atmosphere he has created.

I’ll frame it another way: could you imagine how you would feel as a player if both managers wanted to sign you? What an honour it would be.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola

The pair revealed if they would rather play under Jurgen Klopp (left) or Pep Guardiola (right)

Reds manager Klopp and City boss Guardiola are widely seen as among the best in the world

Reds manager Klopp and City boss Guardiola are widely seen as among the best in the world

WHERE WOULD YOU RATHER BUY A SEASON TICKET?

CROUCH: As a personal preference: Liverpool. This looks like I’m being really biased already, doesn’t it? City are beautiful to watch, one of the best teams we’ve seen in the Premier League era, but would I prefer a total strangulation of teams every single week? Passing teams to death with no real comeback from the opposition? 

Or an open, expansive game that is end-to-end? Everyone is different but for me, it’s the latter. Liverpool leave themselves open occasionally and that potentially gives City an edge on Sunday.

On styles, we’re really splitting hairs now. It’s like the Ronaldo-Messi debate: why can’t we just enjoy them? It’s the same with City and Liverpool but you’ve asked me to, so here I am! There is no right or wrong answer. You’d pay a lot of money to watch both teams.

RICHARDS: You would, I agree. Both Crouchie and I are very fortunate that we get to see the games up close as pundits and you can’t help but appreciate how high the level of football is. I would want a season ticket watching this City side every week.

I think they’re outstanding. But if someone gave me a season ticket for Anfield that included Champions League games, I wouldn’t turn it down! I got goosebumps when I first played there and looked up at the Kop. I can only imagine what it must have been like to play in that comeback against Barcelona in 2019!

DOES THE WINNER CLINCH THE TITLE?

CROUCH: If City win then the race is over. It would be a four-point lead and their run-in looks more comfortable.

RICHARDS: I agree with you about City being too far ahead if they win. Something tells me, however, that both teams will drop points in the run-in. It would be huge if they were to go on and win another seven matches from here.

This game reminds me of the Manchester derby in April 2012. We were eight points behind United at one stage but when Vincent Kompany scored the only goal of the game, we knew were going to win the title. Liverpool will likely feel the same if they win on Sunday because the lift will be incredible.

There is no doubt that Liverpool have been in City’s thoughts for a few months. I’ve heard players answering questions by saying ‘we are still above Liverpool’ and if they find themselves behind, it will be a big challenge to claw it back.

Richards says he knew City would win the title when Vincent Kompany (left) scored a crucial goal in the Manchester derby against fierce rivals United in April 2012

Richards says he knew City would win the title when Vincent Kompany (left) scored a crucial goal in the Manchester derby against fierce rivals United in April 2012

WHERE DO THEY RANK IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE’S BEST EVER?

RICHARDS: I argued this last month! This is the greatest rivalry in Premier League history and the teams are on another level. I’m not being disrespectful to the teams who went before but I keep looking at the numbers and my mind is blown. 

Since August 2018, City have earned 338 points. Liverpool, over the same period, have 337. This is fantasy football, a joy for us all to be watching. These standards aren’t normal yet they have both had runs of 12 or 14 straight wins as if it is nothing out of the ordinary. It is out of the ordinary!

This point needs emphasising: Liverpool had 97 points in 2019 — NINETY-SEVEN POINTS! — and it wasn’t enough to make them champions.

CROUCH: They are both right alongside the Arsenal ‘Invincibles’, who were the best I ever faced. There were times you’d go to Old Trafford and knew you’d get spanked, but that Arsenal team were truly mesmeric.

The current City and Liverpool teams stand with them but not beyond them — yet. Arsenal didn’t win the Champions League, so City winning that would elevate them. The same goes for Liverpool if they win another league title.

I don’t agree that they’ve taken the competition out of the league as there are always two going for the title. The others, mainly Manchester United and Chelsea, need to catch up — the standards of the rest of the top six have dropped and it’s coincided with the main two becoming stronger.

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WOULD ANY OF CITY’S 2012 PLAYERS GET INTO PEP’S TEAM?

RICHARDS: Good question. We are seeing City play incredible football, but I wouldn’t want anyone to forget about the talent we had in that squad. If I think back to what the players were like then at their peak, plenty of them would be included.

There is Sergio Aguero — what would City have done this season with a striker of his quality? It’s the one area of the team that we all agree City can improve.

Vinny Kompany was a mainstay for Guardiola for a couple of years, we all remember how good he was. Are you also telling me there wouldn’t be room for David Silva in his pomp? Or Yaya Toure?

Carlos Tevez would definitely get in this team, too. People might raise an eyebrow about that but, believe me, he would be made to play in that position coming off the left of a front three. His role in us winning the title is often overlooked.

I’d also mention Gareth Barry and Nigel de Jong — they were class, perhaps taken for granted at times. I could see them playing holding midfield for this team without any kind of issue.

Richards insisted City would be an improved side with Sergio Aguero (pictured right in 2012)

Richards insisted City would be an improved side with Sergio Aguero (pictured right in 2012)  

IT’S MADE FOR THEM TO MEET IN THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL…

CROUCH: Other than Bayern Munich, I can’t see anybody upsetting either team. But, then again, look at Bayern at Villarreal on Wednesday! A City-Liverpool final would be some showpiece. Real Madrid dealt with Chelsea but I see City being able to beat them in a potential semi-final.

RICHARDS: Aren’t we forgetting the FA Cup semi-final? That game is third on the list of priorities, perhaps, but it will be fascinating to see how it pans out.

City might be vulnerable because the game on Sunday will be a huge physical effort, as will Atletico Madrid on Wednesday. Liverpool were brilliant at Benfica on Tuesday and that 3-1 advantage gives Klopp some breathing space.

He could make seven or eight changes for that game and still pick a team that would win. Liverpool, from a squad point of view, are in a great spot to go for everything.

Liverpool's 3-1 advantage over Benfica gives them some breathing space ahead of the FA Cup semi final compared to City who face Atletico Madrid on Wednesday

Liverpool’s 3-1 advantage over Benfica gives them some breathing space ahead of the FA Cup semi final compared to City who face Atletico Madrid on Wednesday

WHO MAKES YOUR COMBINED XI?

CROUCH: Oh, this is where we get grief!

RICHARDS: (laughs) How long have we got for this one?

CROUCH: Let me try to start… there is nothing between any of the players in the relevant positions — you try splitting Alisson and Ederson — and it’s possible to pick a few different variations. So here goes, I’m going 4-3-3…

Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Dias, Robertson; De Bruyne, Fabinho, Silva; Salah, Foden, Mane.

The hardest one is at left back. Joao Cancelo is class. But Andrew Robertson never puts a foot wrong. This was so tough but I’ve gone for Robertson because he managed to sort me some tickets out for the Benfica game!

He obviously knew that this combined XI was coming. Very shrewd. Cancelo: you know what you need to do next time… just a thought! Seriously though, look at that team. Over to you, Micah.

RICHARDS: I’m tweaking that formation. I’m going 3-4-1-2…

Ederson; Walker, Van Dijk, Dias; Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, De Bruyne, Robertson; Foden; Salah, Mane.

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City's star midfielder Kevin De Bruyne (pictured above) made it into both pundits' combined XI

City’s star midfielder Kevin De Bruyne (pictured above) made it into both pundits’ combined XI

I had to toss a coin to decide between Cancelo or Robertson, —the thing that just tipped it was heads coming down on the side of Robertson! Being serious, he is absolutely fantastic, a running machine who never stops producing the goods.

I wanted my team to play out from the back, so I went for Ederson but I’m sure plenty of people will tell me I am wrong and that Alisson is just as good with his feet. What teams they are! The levels there are absolutely ridiculous.

PREDICTIONS, PLEASE…

CROUCH: I fancy a 1-1 draw but with City eventually winning the league. Liverpool to win the Champions League.

RICHARDS: Are you reading my mind? Sometimes when these games are so hyped, they never go quite as you expect them to and I think 1-1, too. I’m adamant that there will be more bumps in the road after this, but let’s see.

If Liverpool win, they will go on and take the title. I could be at peace with that if I knew that City could have the Champions League as a consolation…

Dominic King and Jack Gaughan were asking the questions. 



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