Man City and Liverpool battle for top spot once again

Manchester City leading the English Premier League comes as no great surprise, but not many would have expected Liverpool to be second after overhauling its midfield in the summer following a poor season that saw it fail to qualify for the Champions League.

City, attempting to be the first club in English history to win the top-flight title four years in a row, is coming off a historic treble season that saw it win its first Champions League crown.

It spent more than £200 million during the transfer window to bring in the likes of Mateo Kovacic, Jeremy Doku, Matheus Nunes and Josko Gvardiol, but was rocked when Kevin de Bruyne suffered a long-term hamstring injury in August.

The Belgian international has not played since the Burnley game, but City has hardly missed the midfielder.

In Doku, it has unearthed another gem. Like de Bruyne, Doku is a Belgian international.

Earlier this month, he set two Premier League records in City’s 6-1 demolition of Bournemouth. At the age of 21 years and 161 days (as of Nov 5), he became the youngest player to bag five goal involvements in a single game, with a goal and four assists.

He also became the youngest player to have four assists in a match.

Doku’s form has helped City forget de Bruyne’s absence and the loss of Ilkay Gundogan and Riyad Mahrez to the Saudi Arabian league. He has also eased the pain of England Under-21 international Cole Palmer leaving for Chelsea.

Palmer, a lifelong Manchester United fan, broke City’s hearts when he left in the summer. He found his feet in London and made his debut for the senior England team in midweek.

City hosts Liverpool tomorrow (8.30pm) with a one-point advantage after 12 league games of the season. It has 28, after nine wins, a draw, and two defeats.

Liverpool spent £145 million on four new midfielders – Alexis Mac Allister, Dominik Szoboszlai, Wataru Endo and Ryan Gravenberch – to replace Jordan Henderson, Fabinho, Naby Keita, James Milner and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

The quartet has revived Liverpool’s lagging fortunes, and with Mohamed Salah on fire after the Reds rejected an offer from Saudi Arabian club Al-Ittihad, Liverpool has entered the title picture.

Its strike force, which includes Darwin Nunez, Diogo Jota, Luis Diaz and Cody Gakpo, has been the perfect foil for Salah, who has 10 goals and four assists after 12 games.

The Reds have scored 27 goals in the league, but its defence – with the imperious Virgil van Dijk back to his best, and Allison Becker, arguably the best goalkeeper in the league – has only conceded 10 goals.

Separately, Manchester City and Liverpool have written to their supporters to urge them to behave.

FIXTURES (Malaysian time)

Manchester City vs Liverpool (8.30pm)
Sheffield United vs Bournemouth (11pm)
Nottingham Forest vs Brighton (11pm)
Burnley vs West Ham (11pm)
Luton vs Crystal Palace (11pm)
Newcastle vs Chelsea (11pm)

Brentford vs Arsenal (1.30am)
Tottenham vs Aston Villa (10pm)

Everton vs Manchester United (12.30am)

Fulham vs Wolves (4am)