Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne returned to the Manchester City squad after injury as the champions hosted Everton in the Premier League.
The pair were both named on the bench for the lunchtime clash at the Etihad Stadium along with Raheem Sterling and John Stones. Fernandinho returned to the starting line-up.
Everton were without Idrissa Gueye while Dominic Calvert-Lewin came into the side for Theo Walcott.
Our line-up ahead of a big afternoon of Premier League action!— Manchester City (@ManCity) December 15, 2018
CITY XI | Ederson, Walker, Gündogan, Laporte, Delph, Sané, Silva, Fernandinho (C), Mahrez, Otamendi, Jesus
SUBS | Muric, Stones, Sterling, Agüero, De Bruyne, Zinchenko, Foden@HaysWorldwide #MCIEVE pic.twitter.com/Ihq2RZSj3W
🔵 | Team news is in at the Etihad Stadium!— Everton (@Everton) December 15, 2018
⚽ @CalvertLewin14 leads the line.
3️⃣ @michaelkeane04, @KurtZouma and Yerry Mina all start.
🤕 @IGanaGueye misses out.
COME ON YOU BLUES! #EFCawayday pic.twitter.com/LSw2Z3Kuv8
Jurgen Klopp‘s Premier League-leading Liverpool take on Jose Mourinho‘s Manchester United this weekend in a renewal of one of England’s fiercest rivalries, in a game that players on both sides will be desperate to win.
Though United are definitely in the worse form, languishing 16 points behind their rivals, form has a history of disappearing in derby contests like this, especially with the talented players available on both sides.
Here’s a look at the key player battles for Sunday’s game.
Mohamed Salah vs Marcus Rashford
There were murmurs that Salah was not the same player as the all-conquering force of last season. The Egyptian has put all such talk to bed, scoring a hat-trick last week against Bournemouth and then following that up with the goal that ensured Liverpool qualified for the Champions League Round of 16.
He hasn’t marked one of Liverpool’s fiercest derby games with a goal yet, however, with United having contained Salah well in both encounters last season. But the defensive form that held Salah to zero goals has disappeared, and the Liverpool talisman will be relishing the chance to rack up the goals on Sunday.
Much like Salah, Marcus Rashford is finding his best form after a slow start to the season. He’s scored two goals and added four assists in December, with one goal and two assists in United’s last Premier League game.
He’s also seemingly discovering his voice, becoming one of the more vocal members of the squad and sounding a rallying cry ahead of this game, calling manager Mourinho a “winner” and emphasising that his team are not underdogs against Liverpool.
Rashford scored twice in United’s last encounter with Liverpool, and in current form, he has every chance of backing up those fighting words.
Jordan Henderson vs Ander Herrera
Jordan Henderson has spent most of this season with questions hanging over his place in Liverpool’s first-choice XI. With the arrivals of Fabinho, Naby Keita, and Xherdan Shaqiri and the continued good form of James Milner and Georginio Wijnaldum, Henderson has often been the one to suffer when Klopp has looked to chop and change.
But every time he’s written off, Liverpool’s captain reminds his critics of his worth. The England midfielder was brilliant in the Reds’ win over Napoli in midweek, serving as a perfect midfield anchor. Now, it’s time to do the same against the Red Devils.
Ander Herrera is no stranger to being in and out of the side thanks to other midfielders being preferred options. But he’s fought himself back into Mourinho’s plans with some committed displays for United, not to mention crucial interventions – scoring the equalising goal after United were 2-0 down against Southampton, setting up an equaliser in United’s 2-2 draw with Arsenal.
And games like this one seem to bring out the best in the Spaniard, who thrives on the passion – not to mention, the confrontation. Though he had a shocker in United’s other derby, against Man City, expect Herrera to be raring to go on Sunday.
Virgil van Dijk vs Eric Bailly
That Liverpool are genuine title contenders can be put down largely to the form of one player, and it’s not Salah or the rest of the Reds’ attack. Van Dijk has been a colossus at the back, leading Liverpool to the best defensive record in the league – and, of course, the best record in the league overall.
Van Dijk was in the XI that lost 2-1 to United at Old Trafford that season, and with Liverpool likely fielding a makeshift back-line, he’ll have to be at his very best to make sure there’s no repeat.
Van Dijk’s form for Liverpool has been so good, it’s caused an identity crisis at United, who are now mulling a splash in the winter transfer market to mirror the Reds’ move for their star centre-back last January. Until then, it’s up to defenders already on United’s payroll to trigger an improvement in the team’s defensive form.
At the moment, the responsibility for that lies with Eric Bailly. The Ivorian has returned after being frozen out by Mourinho, and has looked in good form instantly. If he can continue that, United will have a much better chance of keeping out Liverpool’s much-vaunted back line.
Pep Guardiola hopes Kevin De Bruyne’s recent injuries prove a blessing in disguise after the Manchester City playmaker began this season “tired”.
De Bruyne has made just three substitute appearances in the Premier League this term, and not featured at all since November 1, after suffering two separate knee injuries.
The 27-year-old was the star of City’s title-winning campaign last season and shone again in the summer as Belgium reached the World Cup semi-finals.
Guardiola believes he was still feeling the effects of his heavy workload when his injury problems began and he hopes the enforced rest will have done him good as he nears a comeback.
The City boss said: “I think Kevin finished last season exhausted, it was so tough for him. He played a lot of minutes, a lot. It was an incredible performance and after that he went to the World Cup.
“When he came back I had the feeling that he was a little bit tired still. Sometimes people recover quite well, sometimes mentally it takes time.
“We don’t want to be injured but maybe it helped us. Now he’s fresh in his mind, he is recovered and now he tries again to avoid the injuries and play regularly.
“Of course he is going to be important for us, he is a special player for us.”
De Bruyne and striker Sergio Aguero, who has missed four games with a groin injury, are both in contention for Saturday’s clash with Everton at the Etihad Stadium after returning to training this week.
Speaking at his pre-match press conference, Guardiola said of Aguero: “He did the last training session with the team. He has no pain in his injury so afterwards we are going to decide.”
On De Bruyne, he added: “The same as Sergio, he trained quite well, no pain. We’ll see.”
City have lost just twice in all competitions this season but Guardiola feels De Bruyne has been badly missed.
He said: “Yes, a lot. I said it from the beginning when he got an injury the first time, and the second time, we were going to miss him.
“Of course he has to recover his full condition and he has to compete with the players who have done incredibly good so far, but when you have more players we can rotate it more. If we have competition between them it’s much better. Of course it’s good news when he is coming back.”