Previewing Liverpool vs Man City, why Haaland won’t join Madrid in 2024 and the end of the road for Steve Bruce

In his exclusive column for CaughtOffside, former Aston Villa and Liverpool striker Stan Collymore discusses some of football’s biggest talking points, including Steve Bruce’s abysmal managerial record, where Liverpool vs Manchester City will be won and lost and why Arsenal are not title contenders…

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Liverpool’s ageing midfield makes Man City favourites…

The game will be won and lost in midfield, it’s that simple.

If you look at Manchester City’s midfield when everybody is fit and available, it’s stacked with quality. Their creative players are the ones who act as the attacker’s supply line. They all chip in by providing chances and that’s why they’re so good at putting a chokehold on their opponents.

Will Liverpool go with a 4-2-3-1 formation and have two defensive midfielders in place to help protect the back four? I do wonder about that because we saw some early jitters against Rangers in the Champions League during mid-week so although they ran out 7-1 winners, Jurgen Klopp will know his side cannot start that poorly against City on the weekend.

Whichever players Klopp puts into his midfield for Sunday’s game, they’re going to have to work their socks off. Jordan Henderson, Thiago, Fabinho and James Milner all give their all during games, but I can’t help but feel that the Reds need an injection of energy in the middle of the park.

During the last six or seven seasons, Liverpool have gone from having one of the youngest average squad age to one of the oldest. So considering City are continually replenishing their squad, it’s now time for Liverpool’s owners to do the same and add some fresh faces, particularly in the midfield.

But transfers aside, do I think Liverpool can beat Manchester City at home? – Yes. I think this Liverpool team is capable of beating any side in world football on their day. But do I think they will this weekend? – No.

I think Sunday will be Pep Guardiola’s day. I think his Citizens will control the game from start to finish and look almost unbeatable in the process. I’m not saying Liverpool are going to get thumped, but I do think City will take all three points quite comfortably.

Unfortunately, if my prediction ends up unfolding, I think that would be the biggest sign that City are going to run away with it and lift their seventh Premier League title. I understand why some fans are excited to see what Arsenal can do, but there is no way the Gunners are going to go on an emphatic 38-game run similarly to what we saw happen between Liverpool and City last season – no chance.

Pep Guardiola’s Champions League criticism is fair…

He’s won everything there is to win, but I think there is one valid criticism of him: he hasn’t (yet) won the Champions League with Manchester City.

They’re always in the Champions League and with the amount of money they have to spend, the only team that can really compare is Paris Saint-Germain, so I do expect Guardiola to produce a lot more than what he has from that City squad in Europe.

However, domestically, what he has created is superb. He has a team of world-class players, across every position, and although they all have egos, they’re not detrimental to the squad’s performances. Erling Haaland, Kevin Bruyne, Jack Grealish, Ederson… They’re all big-time stars with a touch of arrogance, but they all let their football do the talking and that is not something that can be said for many teams.

Why would Erling Haaland want to leave Man City?

On the subject of Haaland, reports linking him with a future move to Real Madrid will not go away.

I read something the other day about Madrid wanting to sign Haaland in 2024. I hope that doesn’t happen for the Premier League’s sake. It’d be great if Haaland stayed in England’s top flight for a long time, rather than move to another country after just two years.

He’s just so good that of course fans of the Premier League want to see him playing week in and week out. He’s devastating and although he is often referred to as a ‘poacher’, he isn’t really. His game is to hang off that last defender and run in behind so Virgil Van Dijk will need to be at his very best to ensure this doesn’t happen this weekend.

But when it comes to the possibility of him leaving for Real Madrid sooner rather than later. I don’t think that’ll happen. I can see Haaland sticking around for at least four or five years.

Yes, Real Madrid have the historic edge. They’re a huge club with all the glitz and glamour but if Manchester City finally make a dent in the Champions League and continue their domestic dominance then why on earth would any player want to leave, especially when the Citizens can match any side in world football when it comes to money? – If City can keep him for the foreseeable future, expect records to tumble.

Steve Bruce should call it a day following West Brom embarrassment…

Sacked again.

He must be the luckiest man in England and I say this knowing how hard it is to have and keep a high-level football career.

When you look at his CV at all the clubs he has managed – Birmingham City, Hull City, Sunderland, Newcastle United, Aston Villa, Wigan, Crystal Palace and most recently West Brom and you ask yourself ‘how many of these clubs did he improve?’ – the answer is not very many.

Birmingham City fans will argue he did well there, which probably explains why he feels so at home in Birmingham, but there were so many times I watched a Bruce team and they were set up with a back five and I don’t mean a back three with two wing-backs, I mean a flat back five – full-backs going nowhere. Such a depressing style of play for the fans who are paying a shed load of money to go and watch their team.

I just don’t see why any club would want to employ him. His tempo is slow, his style is boring. His latest sacking from West Brom surely must be the end for him.

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