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City v Liverpool: Key battles

KEY BATTLES: The potentially pivotal match-ups...

KEY BATTLES: The potentially pivotal match-ups...

The subject of many a motivational pre-match team talk is: 'Win your personal battles.'

With so much at stake in Thursday's top-of-the-table encounter against Liverpool, those head-to-head duels could well prove to be the decisive factor for success.

Although we could have picked all 11, here are three potential clashes which could prove pivotal...

Sergio Aguero v Virgil van Dijk

Our Argentine ace boasts an excellent record against the Reds at the Etihad Stadium, having scored in all six league meetings – the best 100% rate of home matches scored in by a player against any opponent in Premier League history.

Kun’s next goal would mark his 250th career strike and one (or more!) against Liverpool would, of course, be more than welcome given the significance of the game.

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He will not have an easy ride, as he is set to lock horns with Liverpool ‘colossus’ Dutchman Virgil van Dijk, whose performances and consistency have been influential. The Reds have tallied 12 Premier League clean sheets – with the defender responsible for 11 of those – and have conceded just eight goals all season.

Esteemed for his height, strength and physicality, van Dijk is also composed in possession so Aguero’s first touches and accuracy need to be perfect.

The forward has nine league goals to his name this campaign (plus five assists) and will have been buoyed by his effort in the 3-1 triumph over Southampton.

EVERY ANGLE: Enjoy Aguero's goal at St Mary's from every vantage point.

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Aymeric Laporte v Mohamed Salah

The French defender has become a stalwart at the heart of City’s defence – his impressively solid performances earning praise across the footballing world, warranting calls for a return to France’s senior squad.

The Blues have definitely reaped the rewards of the defender not being called away for international duty. Laporte has clocked up 20 league appearances, racking up eight clean sheets, and has become known for his calmness, aerial threat and well-timed tackles.

He stands second in the league’s passing charts, tallying 1,739, and he will have to remain cool when coming up against one of the most potent attacking threats in the world.

Salah has registered 13 league goals this season and will enter the game in red-hot form. He has scored seven in his last six games in all competitions and is frighteningly clinical in front of goal, preferring to cut in from the right onto his left foot.

He has netted three in his last four appearances against the Blues.

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Raheem Sterling v Andy Robertson

Leroy Sane – amongst others – is of the opinion fellow winger Sterling is approaching the best form of his career.

Sterling has nine goals and six assists to his name in the Premier League alone and, in fact, has a better shooting accuracy than Salah with 54%.

Of course, he comes up against his former club on Thursday night in another interesting sub-plot, but he will face Reds fans’ favourite Robertson – a quick, attack-minded left-back.

The defender has a wicked delivery and is admired for his offensive threat as highly as his defensive qualities. He had provided three Premier League assists so far this term.

Speed is of the essence.

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