Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne says he is "not too scared" about first-choice goalkeeper Ederson missing Sunday's huge clash with Premier League leaders Liverpool.

The Brazil international was taken off at half-time of City's 1-1 Champions League draw with Atalanta on Wednesday at San Siro with a muscular problem.

Substitute keeper Claudio Bravo was later sent off, leaving full-back Kyle Walker to take over in goal for the closing minutes.

City boss Pep Guardiola confirmed at Friday's pre-match media conference that Ederson will not be fit to play this weekend but De Bruyne is confident Bravo can step in and fill the void.

"It's obviously a blow because he's our first-choice goalkeeper but I have confidence in Claudio also," the Belgium international told BBC's Football Focus.

"I think he had a wonderful pre-season and played against Liverpool in the Community Shield and did really well. He's an experienced keeper so I have all the confidence that he can do a good job. I'm not too scared about that."

City are six points behind leaders Liverpool, having suffered surprise defeats to Norwich City and Wolves already this campaign, while Jurgen Klopp's men remain unbeaten in the league.

City have failed to win at Anfield since 2003 but De Bruyne says they have every intention of leaving Merseyside with all three points.

"We always go to win; that's how we are built to play," he added. "It's our mentality in the team."

Asked if it was City's biggest game of the season so far, De Bruyne responded: "Probably, but people will obviously make this bigger than it eventually can be. Obviously at this moment in the year, it is a big game, but it is not all telling for me."

A win for Liverpool would give them a nine-point advantage over City at the Premier League summit – a gap some believe would be too big for Guardiola's side to bridge.

De Bruyne, however, says it will be too early to predict the outcome of the title race, regardless of Sunday's result.

"You can only talk about the importance of the game after the season is over," he told Sky Sports. "This game is too early. If it was in April, that would give another incentive to it but even if we win, draw or lose, I would still feel confident because there is still so long.

"If you lose, you know there is going to be a big gap, but we have to take it as it is, compete, and see what happens.

"We could take any reaction after the game, like saying our season is over if we lose, but there are so many circumstances that could go on.

"Maybe they [Liverpool] drop some points and we win lots of games and we end up being on top in March or April, then people will say this game didn't even matter."

Liverpool midfielder Fabinho is not convinced the top-of-the-table clash with Manchester City will define the Premier League title race.

European champions Liverpool can take a commanding nine-point lead at the summit with victory in Sunday's match-anticipated match at Anfield.

The clubs played out a goalless draw in this exact fixture last season before City prevailed 2-1 in January's return encounter, eroding Liverpool's hard-earned advantage back to four points.

Pep Guardiola's men ultimately pipped the Reds to the title by a point but Brazil international Fabinho does not view those missed chances as being decisive.

"I don't think the outcome last season was based on the results against Man City," Fabinho told the Liverpool website.

"But if we beat them then we will have a large points advantage over them, which will be important for us.

"But this game is always a bit more special because we have the chance to pick up points and stop a direct rival from picking up points.

"So we're going to do all we can to win, but I'm not sure if this result will define the outcome of the season."

Barbs have been traded ahead of the latest instalment of this burgeoning rivalry, with Jurgen Klopp highlighting City's propensity for "tactical fouls" after Guardiola accused Reds star Sadio Mane of diving.

Nevertheless, Klopp affirmed his admiration of Guardiola in his pre-match news conference and Fabinho holds an equal level of respect for what the Premier League champions have built under the Catalan.

"We've played against this City team before and they've shown us what they're about," the former Monaco star said.

"They're great with the ball and they are hard-working, they're great in attack and all of this makes them one of the best teams in Europe today.

"But in the Premier League there are so many good teams and we've managed to play well in these situations as well. So playing City will be another challenge, but I think we're ready for it."

In the past six meetings between Manchester City and Liverpool in major competitions Pep Guardiola used notably different tactical setups on each occasion.

Defensive problems with a 3-5-2 despite a 5-0 win over the 10-man Reds in September 2017 prompted a switch to his tried and trusted 4-3-3 as City swept all before them on the way to a 100-point haul and Premier League glory in 2017-18.

Well, almost all. Liverpool won a thriller 4-3 on Merseyside in the January of that campaign – persuading Guardiola to select a diamond midfield for the first leg of a Champions League quarter-final three months later.

That didn't work either, as City were ransacked 3-0 and were unable to turn the tie around despite an all-or-nothing 3-1-4-2 line-up tearing into the return leg at the Etihad Stadium with gusto.

Last season it was out with the cavalier and in with control, whether that was Bernardo Silva playing in a deeper central midfield position during a 0-0 draw in Liverpool or Aymeric Laporte playing on the left of a defence able to pivot from a four to a three in a gripping 2-1 triumph in Manchester.

City will search for a first Anfield win in 16-and-a-half years on Sunday, with Liverpool's six-point lead at the top of the Premier League table compromising their ambitions of a third straight title.

Ederson this week joined an injury list featuring Aymeric Laporte, Leroy Sane, David Silva and Oleksandr Zinchenko, meaning an even taller order for Guardiola against the most persistently challenging adversary of his coaching career.

Here, we look at how Guardiola might approach his latest crack at the Klopp conundrum.

4-4-2, 1-4-4-1 – Guardiola's 2019-20 shape experiments

During August's Community Shield encounter against Liverpool, where a typically tight game went City's way on penalties after a 1-1 draw, Guardiola debuted a tweak to his 4-3-3. One of the attacking midfielders – in this instance Kevin De Bruyne – would press high and close to the centre forward, forming a 4-4-2 shape without the ball.

Ostensibly, this ploy has been designed for an aging David Silva to be able to press in a more economical fashion. The master playmaker is likely to miss out at Anfield with a muscular injury, however, and namesake Bernardo seemed a good fit for the role during the first half against Atalanta.

The Portugal international's positioning allowed him to play an astute pass to create Raheem Sterling's opener after the goalscorer won back possession with an interception.

Expect to see more of that when the hosts have the ball, while a new configuration when building play from the back might be used to try and neutralise Liverpool's formidable press.

Ederson's supreme ability with the ball at his feet is simply not replicated by Claudio Bravo, despite the Camp Nou credentials of the man who will deputise for City's injured Brazil international.

This will undoubtedly compromise the construction of the visitors' attacks on Sunday, meaning Fernandinho's accelerated progression from makeshift to mainstay at centre-back is likely to be locked in.

A notable ploy in the games against Crystal Palace away and Atalanta at home, when Guardiola paired Fernandinho with fellow defensive midfielder Rodri in the heart of defence, was one of the centre-backs moving alongside the holding midfielder when City started their build-up.

This created another passing option for the goalkeeper and deeper centre-back and amounted roughly to a 1-4-4-1 shape.

Fernandinho's superb passing range and John Stones' smooth style being suited to this approach means there is another argument for Nicolas Otamendi being the odd man out in defence, before considering his ranking alongside Bravo in the accident-prone stakes.

A time for Foden?

Ever since his maiden first-team appearance two years ago, the understandable clamour for boyhood City fan Phil Foden to feature more frequently has steadily grown.

The difference this season is a case can be made beyond romanticism and the importance of the 19-year-old's development; in certain matches and situations, City look better with Foden in the side

He dazzled for the most part when he started the 5-1 win over Atalanta, only to blot his good work with a pair of needless late bookings. That red card is a reason for Guardiola to stick with more tried and tested names, but he cited the England Under-21 star's box-to-box capabilities as the reason for his selection and frequent success against the Serie A side.

The playmaker's presence lends a dynamism to City's midfield that was notably lacking from this season's Premier League defeats to Norwich City and Wolves, and meeting Liverpool's verve and energy head on feels like a must.

Guardiola's midweek trident of Gundogan, Bernardo Silva and De Bruyne might well have been road tested with Anfield in mind, but throwing Foden into a high-stakes encounter – as when he scored the winner in last season's vital 1-0 victory over Tottenham at the Etihad Stadium – is being given strong consideration.

"Phil Foden has a great stamina capacity, a great thing against Liverpool," a source close to Guardiola told Omnisport before David Silva's injury made Foden's path to the first XI theoretically more straightforward.

"I think City are not interested in a crazy match versus Liverpool, but to try to be in control of the ball. But finally, that [picking Foden] is the crucial decision around Pep's match plan."

 

Aguero or Jesus… or both?

Sergio Aguero has started 2019-20 in typically prolific form, scoring 13 times in 14 appearances, despite sometimes appearing to be operating shy of top gear.

At the same time, Gabriel Jesus is also enjoying a strong run of form and, given Guardiola's frequently stated admiration for the Brazil striker's high-pressing, there could be a temptation to switch his attacking spearhead.

However, as separate as it remains from what he brings in open play, Jesus' feeble penalty at San Siro will not have helped his case. Also, Aguero's pedigree in big games – even allowing for the anomaly of him never finding the net at Anfield – surely sways the argument in his favour.

Jesus' revival after an underwhelming 2018-19 came playing on the right-hand side of Brazil's attack. Guardiola has not played Aguero and Jesus together in the same 4-3-3 forward line with any frequency since the early months of 2017-18 and a bold Jesus-Aguero-Sterling frontline would certainly raise eyebrows on Merseyside.

It could also cause plenty of problems. Nevertheless, Bernardo Silva's tireless work rate to negate Andy Robertson or Riyad Mahrez looking to atone a wretched penalty miss of his own on the same ground 13 months ago remain far more likely options on Guardiola's right flank.

Omnisport's predicted Manchester City line-up to face Liverpool: Bravo; Walker, Fernandinho, Stones, Mendy; Gundogan, De Bruyne, Foden; Bernardo Silva, Aguero, Sterling.

Alisson said Liverpool wanted to avoid a repeat of last season as he talked up the significance of Sunday's clash against Manchester City.

Pep Guardiola's Premier League champions head to Anfield trailing Liverpool by six points through 11 games this campaign.

City claimed the title last season, finishing a point clear of Liverpool despite Jurgen Klopp's men losing just one game.

Alisson said Liverpool had no interest in experiencing that again, eager to go one better in 2019-20.

"We don't want to feel how we felt last season," the goalkeeper told The Guardian.

"Being second by just one point – and we don't know which game made us lose the title because we had a few draws where we could have done better, and we had the loss away to Man City when we could have won or drawn – means we know that we need to give everything in every game if we want to become Premier League champions.

"We want it and we will try to do it."

Liverpool have won 10 of their opening 11 Premier League games, drawing one, to open up an early lead at the top.

Alisson knows how important Sunday's encounter is as the European champions try to surge further clear.

"Last season we had a great experience, an almost perfect season," the Brazil international said. "We lost one game and that one game was against City. We know how big this game is for us.

"We know how big the game is for everyone – for them and for our fans. In the end it is just three more important points but Manchester City have been the best team in the league for the last few years so we need to give everything to win this game."

Pep Guardiola has called on Merseyside police to ensure there is no repeat of the 2018 attack on Manchester City's bus when they face off with Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday.

City's bus was damaged when making its way to the ground for the first leg of a Champions League quarter-final tie against the Reds, which Liverpool won 3-0.

This week, a poster circulated on social media in which fans were encouraged to "greet" City's coach ahead of the top-of-the-table Premier League clash.

And Guardiola urged police to make sure his team arrive without incident.

"No. Hopefully it will not happen again, so the police knew about [it] for the Champions League game before and didn't do anything," he said. 

"I don't know what they are going to do, hopefully it will be an incredible game at Anfield for the Premier League and for all around the world. 

"That is what we want. Hopefully it's not going to happen, the same that happened two seasons ago when we arrive, which was more than one bottle."

Reds boss Jurgen Klopp issued a similar message, calling on fans to provide vociferous vocal backing in the stands but not to engage in "senseless" acts.

"I'm a big believer of fan power – in the stadium. That's completely different. [The coach incident] was a senseless thing," Klopp said. 

"If somebody at Man City is concerned still, then it's our fault. Not that we did it all together, we all didn't throw the bottle or whatever it was, but it was one of us. That's why we are responsible. 

"All of us have to make sure that something like this will never happen again. It's long ago and since then nothing has happened. I don't think it was Man City specific. 

"After the punishment we got, we haven't had a similar situation – the positive outcome of something like this. 

"Actually, we used to enjoy that [the coach welcome], when we come in, it's impressive. It's a nice part of football, but if you overstep the line then it's not allowed that you do it anymore. 

"That's how it is. I wish I could say it will never happen again but unfortunately I can't. But what I can say is we will do everything that it will never happen again. 

"Everybody agrees to feel this responsibility that it won't happen again. That's why I say – go in the stadium, nothing to do outside, have your food, go in, wait for the team, we will come, let's make a pretty special game of it."

Superintendent Paul White issued a statement on Merseyside Police's official website addressing the poster doing the rounds on social media and insisted they are doing all they can to ensure there are no major incidents.

"As with any match, a comprehensive and appropriate policing operation has been put in place ahead of Sunday's game and we have liaised with both clubs and their supporter groups," he said.

"We are aware of one poster on social media regarding a bus welcome. The corresponding last fixture ran smoothly and we are working to ensure this game can be enjoyed safely by all as well as minimising any disruption to local residents and roads.

"As with all Premier League fixtures at Anfield, we will have officers on duty at the ground, both uniformed and plain clothed, supported by mobile CCTV, provided by Liverpool City Council, and specialist resources including the Dog Section, mounted police and the National Police Air Service. We will also have a city centre policing plan in place throughout the day. This is standard procedure. 

"We know that this will be a busy operation and we hope that fans attending the match will act as ambassadors for their clubs. 

"As usual we would ask fans with tickets to arrive at the ground as early as possible. Fans without tickets should not attend at all; they will not be allowed entry into the stadium."

Pep Guardiola described Anfield as the toughest stadium in the world to visit right now, but insisted Manchester City are not out of the Premier League title race if they lose to Liverpool on Sunday.

The build-up to the mouth-watering top-of-the-table clash has been dominated by talk of diving and tactical fouls, although City boss Guardiola and Reds counterpart Jurgen Klopp have done their bit to ease the tension.

Last season City took four points from the Reds, a return that proved decisive as they pipped Liverpool – who lost just once in the league – to the title by a solitary point.

Guardiola described the triumph as one of the greatest of his career and recognised the difficulty of playing at a stadium where Liverpool have not lost any of their previous 45 league games.

"As a manager, I said last season when we won the league, they're the best contender I ever faced in my career to win this league," he said. 

"It was the biggest achievement, or one of the biggest achievements, as a club. It remains the same. Probably right now they're the strongest team in the world.

"They are an exceptional team. Of course, the history is there for itself. It's something special, I think more for the quality of the team of what they do, quality of players they have, quality of manager they have, I believe more in that, in the team, than the scenario [atmosphere at Liverpool]. 

"Right now it's [Anfield] one of the toughest ones, right now in Europe it’s the toughest stadiums to go there."

Unbeaten Liverpool can open up a nine-point gap over City with victory on home soil, but Guardiola insists defeat will not mean the end of their title aspirations.

"I don't know to be honest, I think in November it never ends. I think we have a lot of games still to play," he added. 

"My experience in sport is you have to play until the end, are we going to win Champions League? Your favourite question! I don't know the answer.

"They lost one game last season, this season they are unbeaten so I think they won't lose many but the season is long."

Guardiola this week sought to clarify comments he made about Liverpool forward Sadio Mane and "diving", which drew a retort from Klopp bringing up previous accusations the Catalan's teams are guilty of "tactical fouls".

But Guardiola gave a prickly reply when the issue was brought up again, saying: "I said in Italy, no comment. 

"Ask the other managers. I know exactly what I said to my players in the last 11 years about what we have to do. I know exactly."

It was put to Guardiola that his rivalry with Klopp could potentially stand up to the one between legendary Manchester United and Arsenal bosses Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger during the late 1990s and early 2000s.

But Guardiola said it is far too soon to draw such comparisons.

"Well, I will wait [to see] if my hair grows in the next 20 years because they were more than 20 years together," he said. 

"I think we cannot compare anyone with the rivals of Ferguson and Wenger. Absolute legends in their clubs, they were more than one or two decades there." 

Jurgen Klopp has called on everyone associated with Liverpool, from supporters to the hot dog sellers, to get fully behind their side in Sunday's showdown with Manchester City.

The Premier League leaders welcome City to Anfield knowing that victory will move them nine points clear of the reigning champions with nearly a third of the season played.

Liverpool's only loss in their last 50 league outings came against this weekend's opponents in January as City overturned a seven-point deficit to win the title ahead of the Reds.

"The improvement the boys have made is obvious. We have to play our best game on Sunday," Klopp said at Friday's pre-match news conference.

"Everyone in the stadium has to be in absolutely top shape - even the guy who sells the hot dogs has to be in the top shape. Get to the stadium early, wait for the warm-up, be there.

"You can't make games bigger than they are already. At Anfield, that's really cool. Everything is prepared for a really good football game. It will be one, but not sure for whom."

The two sides have been involved in a number of tense matches in recent times, most recently August's Community Shield clash that City won on penalties after a 1-1 draw.

Liverpool have lost only one of their last 28 top-flight home games with City and Klopp urged his side to "be brave" in the potential title decider.

"It's a big game, two really good teams facing each other at Anfield, under the floodlights," he said.

"The last three games we played 0-0 at home, then lost 2-1 at the Etihad where we nearly scored a goal and then the last one was a draw in the Community Shield, before we lost the shoot-out.

"It will be a good football game. I'm not sure whether it will be just from a coaches and tactical point of view or a spectacle one for supporters.

"But everything is on a plate and no one hides anything, we cannot only be offensive but you have to be brave against Manchester City - even for a point."

The Champions League quarter-final meeting between the sides in April 2018 was marred by unsavoury pre-match events that saw City's team bus come under attack from Liverpool fans outside Anfield.

Merseyside Police has assured City's players and staff that steps have been taken to avoid a repeat this weekend, though Klopp can understand the visitors' concerns.

"If someone from City worries still, it's our fault," he said.

"We didn't all throw bottles [at the coach], but it was one of us. All of us have to make sure that something like that never happens again. We will do everything to make sure it doesn't happen again.

"It's long ago and since then nothing has happened. I don't think it was Man City specific. After the punishment we got, we haven't had a similar situation - the positive outcome of something like this.

"The welcome is a nice part of football, but if you overstep the line then it's not allowed that you do it any more. That's how it is."

Frank Lampard says Chelsea will be "looking in the mirror" rather than worrying about how their potential Premier League title rivals fare this weekend.

Chelsea are fourth in the table, eight points behind leaders Liverpool but six clear of fifth-placed Arsenal.

Liverpool face champions Manchester City, who are currently in second, on Sunday, presenting the opportunity for Chelsea and Leicester City - who are third - to make up ground on the top two.

And Leicester play Arsenal, meaning four of the top five will face off.

Yet head coach Lampard is determined his team will not be concerned by results elsewhere, keen to keep their focus on improving throughout the season.

"We're looking in the mirror at ourselves," he told a news conference ahead of hosting Crystal Palace on Saturday.

"Up and down are things you can't always control - what will be will be with those teams. They have their problems or strong points or whatever.

"What we have to do is look at ourselves week in, week out, look at Crystal Palace tomorrow, go away for the internationals, and then we come back and we play Manchester City. Every week brings the challenge of a game.

"At the moment, we're happy with what we've done but I think we can always get a lot better. That's the only way: I don't think we should look too much anywhere else, rather than within."

Chelsea are managing injury issues in the centre of midfield, with Ross Barkley out since the win over Newcastle United last month while Mason Mount hobbled off against Ajax in midweek.

Both players were named in Gareth Southgate's England squad for the upcoming international break, yet Barkley will not feature at home to Palace, and Mount is a doubt.

"Ross has an ongoing issue, so he's not in the squad for tomorrow," Lampard said.

"It's a conversation I'll have with Gareth or Steve [Holland, England assistant] with Ross and everyone to see how it pans out for him over the next 10 days. I'm not sure on that one, but he won't be in our squad.

"With Mason, he's in the squad, and we're giving him another 24 hours. We'll make a call on that one in the morning [Saturday]."

Chelsea should at least have N'Golo Kante back after he returned to the bench against Ajax and was later named in the France squad. He has not featured since an injury in the previous international break.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has declared Virgil van Dijk and Jordan Henderson fit for Sunday's crunch Premier League clash with Manchester City.

Reds skipper Henderson missed Tuesday's 2-1 Champions League win over Genk through illness, while Van Dijk was absent from training on Thursday.

However, it later transpired Van Dijk was granted permission to return to his native Netherlands to receive royal recognition for his outstanding achievements this year.

Klopp confirmed at Friday's pre-match news conference that the centre-back, along with captain Henderson, will be available for selection at Anfield on Sunday.

"Virgil was for other reasons not here on Thursday but he is completely fine. Jordan is completely fine," he said.

Liverpool remain without Joel Matip, Xherdan Shaqiri and Nathaniel Clyne for the visit of City, who trail the league leaders by six points ahead of this weekend's showdown.

 

Women's World Cup winner Megan Rapinoe has called on clubs, officials and fan groups to do more to eradicate racism from football.

Rapinoe highlighted the €75,000 (£65,000) fine given to Bulgaria by UEFA last month following evidence of racist abuse during the Euro 2020 qualifier with England as an example of where the sport is continuing to fall short.

Bulgaria were also ordered to play two games behind closed doors - the second of which is suspended for two years - in a decision Rapinoe branded "an absolute joke".

"We're not going to accept this. This is not something that's going to be in our game," she told BBC Radio 1's Newsbeat.

"So I feel like all of the clubs and the presidents and fan groups and everyone, you know, frankly are failing these players.

"If you're ever caught doing anything racist you should be banned for life. That's just the end of it. I mean £65,000 is an absolute joke.

"For me I'm just like, make it super extreme so it's damaging to the team, to the federation, so it's damaging financially."

Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling played in England's recent qualifier in Sofia and has been praised for speaking out about racism.

Rapinoe has urged others to follow his example.

"I need all the players on Raheem's team, all the players in the Premier League and in the leagues abroad to make it their problem because it really is everybody's issue," she said.

Rapinoe won the Golden Ball and Golden Boot as the United States defended their World Cup crown earlier this year, before collecting the Best FIFA Women's Player award in September.

Bayern Munich have removed another name from their list of potential replacements for Niko Kovac.

Arsene Wenger reportedly contacted the managerless German giants to personally express his interest in becoming head coach but will not considered for the role.

Now back to winning ways, Bayern could even delay the naming of a new boss until the end of the season.

 

LEAD STORY – BAYERN DELIVER BAD NEWS FOR WENGER

Arsene Wenger's hopes of coaching Bayern Munich have been dashed, according to Sport Bild.

A new report from the German publication claims the Bundesliga champions, while respectful of Wenger's work at Arsenal, are not considering him for the job, despite his attempts to convince chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

Interim boss Hansi Flick, who steered a wounded side to a 2-0 win over Olympiacos in the Champions League, could now remain in charge until the end of the season, when it will become easier to approach either Erik ten Hag or Thomas Tuchel.

 

ROUND-UP

- Kai Havertz's future is becoming a matter of intense speculation. SPORT say Barcelona have strengthened their interest in the Bayer Leverkusen midfielder and sent scouts to watch him in the midweek Champions League win over Atletico Madrid. Havertz was linked with an £80million move to Manchester United earlier in the week.

- Havertz is not the only player on Barcelona's radar. Spanish television programme El Chiringuito believes the LaLiga's champions are interested in signing Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

- Arsenal, meanwhile, are preparing to part with Granit Xhaka in January after stripping him of the captaincy. The Mirror claims the former Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder could be shipped back to Germany in the next transfer window.

- Manchester United have added Spain international Jose Gaya and his Valencia team-mates Ferran Torres and Carlos Soler to their list of transfer targets, reports Medios Deportivos. 

- There is good news for United's rivals Manchester City, who could welcome Leroy Sane back into the first-team fold in February, according to The Sun. Sane suffered a serious knee injury in the Community Shield in August.

Fernandinho believes Manchester City showed the battling qualities they will need to end their Anfield hoodoo during the second half of Wednesday's eventful 1-1 Champions League draw against Atalanta.

Pep Guardiola's side led 1-0 at the interval thanks to Raheem Sterling's sublime seventh-minute opener and should have made their superiority weigh more heavily, with Gabriel Jesus dragging a dismal penalty wide.

But Ederson was withdrawn before the restart due to a thigh injury and substitute goalkeeper Claudio Bravo's first task was to pluck Mario Pasalic's emphatic 49th-minute header from his net.

City struggled to regain their earlier rhythm as Gian Piero Gasperino's men found a frenetic and effective tempo, and Bravo's outing got worse when he was sent off for charging out of his area to foul Josip Ilicic.

That meant Kyle Walker being introduced as an emergency keeper – the right-back's tentative save from Ruslan Malinovskiy's free-kick bringing chants of "England's number one" from the travelling supporters at San Siro.

City held out for a 1-1 draw that left them five points clear at the top of Group C, their progress to the last 16 virtually assured as attention turns towards Sunday's mouth-watering Premier League showdown with Liverpool.

Jurgen Klopp's league leaders are six points ahead of the reigning champions, who last won at Anfield in 2003.

"I think the main thing was the mentality of the guys," said Fernandinho, who was again deployed at centre-back. "In difficult situations like this we have to stick together and we did.

"This is important because we are building a team to be champions and sometimes to be champions you have to play games like this.

"Now it is good because everybody is understanding what we are building."

Guardiola reported Ederson's thigh injury was "not big" but he is unsure whether his influential number one will be available to face Liverpool.

Irrespective of whether his fellow Brazil international recovers in time, Fernandinho feels City will try to end 16-and-a-half years of Merseyside frustration with confidence.

"The mentality is always try to win the game," he added.

"There's always a first time in life, no? We are searching for this first time to win at Anfield. I am confident we can go there and try to win the game.

"Of course, we will see with Ederson's situation. We are going to train and the medical staff are going to check him and we are going to see if he will be fit or not for Sunday."

Some players thrive under the spotlight more than others – Liverpool will hope Sadio Mane proves his mettle against Manchester City, when the focus will be on him for more than one reason.

Mane has established himself as one of the Premier League's great entertainers and arguably Liverpool's biggest attacking threat, yet he has also earned himself a reputation as a purveyor of the dark arts – or "diving", as Pep Guardiola put it on Saturday.

Earlier that day, Mane had gone down very easily in the penalty area during Liverpool's 2-1 win at Aston Villa. Under pressure from Frederic Guilbert, the forward theatrically went to ground and was swiftly shown a yellow card for simulation by referee Jon Moss.

Jurgen Klopp and Mane have had their say since and come to the conclusion that the Senegal forward is not a "diver" – and even Guardiola appeared to backtrack – yet this weekend he will come under intense scrutiny over his conduct, performance and attitude, particularly given that this was by no means the first time the former Southampton star courted flak for diving.

Considering Mane's importance to Liverpool, Klopp will be desperate for him to harness that attention to the Reds' benefit on the big stage, something Sergio Aguero has become remarkably adept at. 

Aguero the benchmark

Since joining City from Atletico Madrid in 2011, Aguero's productivity in games against the so-called "big six" has been truly remarkable.

In 67 matches, Aguero has scored 44 goals from 241 shots with a conversion rate of 18.3 per cent. Against any standard of opposition that would be considered outstanding – to boast such a record against the Premier League's best is astonishing.

But he is yet to score in seven trips to Anfield, making it his least favourite away ground. 

Jamie Vardy is the closest to Aguero in terms of goals, with 31 in 59 matches. While that may not be as impressive, the fact that haul comes from 109 shots – giving him a startling 28.4 per cent conversion rate – suggests he relishes such occasions like few others.

Mane's record of 18 goals in 53 matches against the top sides may pale in comparison, but it remains impressive and is bettered by only six players.

Sadio the main Mane at Anfield

There is little doubt Mane has become the most influential attacker at Liverpool this season, with 12 goal involvements (nine goals, three assists). Mohamed Salah has 10 split equally between goals and assists, while Roberto Firmino is on nine (five goals, four assists).

Mane's nine goals across all competitions may not be groundbreaking, but it is only one shy of Raheem Sterling and two fewer than Aguero.

He has proven to be a vital creator for the Reds as well, laying on 29 chances for team-mates, six more than Firmino and eight better than Salah.

It is also worth pointing out Mane's 20.9 per cent conversion rate, as that too is significantly better than those posted by Salah (7.9 per cent) and Firmino (13.2 per cent).

Mane out to make a splash

Mane's reply to Guardiola after Liverpool's Champions League win over Genk suggested he is handling the situation rather comfortably.

Not only did he admit he would do what he did against Villa – what he considered to not be a dive – again, he insisted Guardiola's comments won't change him.

Given he has established himself as Liverpool's chief attacking threat, that'll be music to the ears of Klopp as he prepares his side to potentially go nine points clear at the Premier League summit.

Klopp will hope Mane can make a splash of the right kind against the champions at Anfield.

Kevin De Bruyne is relishing the prospect of a pumped-up Anfield when champions Manchester City travel to face Premier League leaders Liverpool on Sunday.

City are six points in arrears, having suffered surprise losses to Norwich City and Wolves in their pursuit of a third straight title, while Jurgen Klopp's men remain unbeaten domestically.

Aside from needing to knock Liverpool off their unrelenting stride, City are also faced with overturning a dismal record on the red side of Stanley Park.

Their previous win at Anfield came in May 2003, while Pep Guardiola's vintage suffered the first Premier League defeat of their dominant 2017-18 campaign on Merseyside before being dumped out of the same season's Champions League by Liverpool.

The atmosphere created by the home supporters has been cited as a factor in City's struggles in the fixture, although it is of no concern to midfield maestro De Bruyne.

"I prefer to play in that [rather] than when there is nobody," he said.

"Professionals want to play in front of 50, 60, 70, 80 thousand people and it makes it worthwhile.

"You train all your life to get to the big stages. I want to compete for titles and to be the best, and to do that you have to win against the best.

"Obviously it’s a big gap, but four weeks ago people were saying it was Liverpool’s [title] to lose. I’m not keeping track of what people say – we play so many games.

"The media will make a lot of it, and people have been talking about it for the whole week, even before the Champions League, but we just do our job, keep calm and prepare ourselves."

City's midweek Champions League outing certainly proved eventful, with right-back Kyle Walker helping to see out a 1-1 draw against Atalanta as an emergency goalkeeper after Ederson and Claudio Bravo were injured and sent off respectively.

Walker enjoys putting himself between the posts during penalty contests in training but De Bruyne did not sense much of that bravado as the England defender prepared to enter the fray at San Siro.

"He's buzzing. Sometimes he jokes in training about playing in goal but obviously he will have been shaking a little bit," the Belgium international said.

"He did what he had to do, and we didn’t give them many opportunities. It happens, and you have to improvise, and he did his job."

City led through Raheem Sterling's wonderfully worked seventh-minute goal and should have been in a far more comfortable position before the goalkeeping carnage ensued.

Gabriel Jesus tamely missed a 43rd-minute penalty – an untimely reminder of his side's frailties from the spot given Riyad Mahrez blazed over during last season's goalless draw at Liverpool.

"It doesn't matter," De Bruyne replied when asked whether City should have ended their Anfield hoodoo last term.

"It's a different game, different season, with other players on the pitch. Everyone is at a different stage. We just have to prepare ourselves."

On that barren run stretching back 16-and-a-half years, he added: "It's for you guy to keep track, I don’t care. A lot of circumstances will decide the game. What can a player do with statistics like this?"

Jurgen Klopp insists he could not hold Pep Guardiola in higher esteem despite the Manchester City manager's recent comments about Liverpool "diving".

Mane scored a late winner for Liverpool in Saturday's 2-1 Premier League win at Aston Villa but was earlier shown a yellow card for simulation, having previously been criticised after winning a contentious late spot-kick against Leicester City.

Guardiola seemed to take a swipe at the Senegal forward by telling BBC Sport "sometimes he is diving", prompting Klopp to defend his player and hit back at City by accusing them of the "tactical fouls" the Catalan has often insisted he does not encourage.

The issue has dominated much of the build-up to Sunday's huge showdown between the top two at Anfield, but Klopp has sought to move on by underlining his respect for his opposite number, after Guardiola backtracked by saying he did not mean to accuse Mane of cheating.

"I am in the same situation as him: we constantly get asked questions and sometimes we say at that second what is in our minds without thinking about anything else," Klopp told Sky Sports.

"He explained it well, he said when he speaks to his kids it's like this, was it a penalty or not – that's a discussion they had at home.

"I am completely fine with that. I couldn't have more respect for Pep Guardiola, I've known him for so long. It's still a big thing to be his contender. To me, he's the best manager in the world and we have the chance to win against his team, which is very difficult but it's possible. We've had a few good results against them so from my side there is nothing but respect."

Klopp also admitted he would prefer to take back his comment on tactical fouls, saying: "I then said what I said but come on, I can't let it go completely without a comment! But I am really not interested. I think there's enough to write about, it's not necessary that we make it bigger.

"If I could do it again, I wouldn't say it [the line about the tactical fouls] because it's just not necessary. I know from the other side as well, there is a lot of respect there. Everything else will be decided on the pitch."

Liverpool, whose last Premier League defeat was away to City in January, are six points clear of the champions at the top of the table heading into the encounter on Merseyside.

Klopp certainly plans to go for the win rather than focus on avoiding defeat, but he does not think the match will prove decisive in the title race.

"We know about the situation last year and we only lost one game, against City, and that was decisive at the end, and that's how people maybe see it, but you have to play all the games. If we win against City and don't win another game after that, there's no use," said the Reds manager.

"There is so much still to come. November, December and January are coming.

"Maybe other people [who] are smarter than me can see it like this. For me it's a 100 per cent win game. This must-win thing I've never understood.

"For us to prepare for a game like this, you have to do the right things again and again.

"I can imagine people are saying we must not lose and they must win. I don't really care – we want to win. And then we will see what the situation is. It's a big one, we know that. The whole world will be watching and I'm looking forward to it.

"In the last couple of years, we've gained a lot of respect for each other, not that I didn't have respect for City and Pep Guardiola teams already. City's performance at Anfield last year was the biggest show of respect I ever got because they played differently to what they usually do.

"I like to think about what we can do. We play at home but the game there we lost by 11 millimetres because the ball was not in. Without that it would be another draw and it would be deserved. I expect a tight game."

City goalkeeper Ederson is a doubt after going off at half-time of the 1-1 Champions League draw at Atalanta on Wednesday, but Klopp expects the Brazil international to play.

"If he couldn't play it would change [things] because he's an important part of their game," he said. "[Claudio] Bravo can do certain things he can do but I expect him to play 100 per cent. Last night was precautionary."

© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.