The Citizens and the Defending Champions play host to the highly Rejuvenated and dangerous Reds in their bid to stay just 7 points tentatively behind Manchester United and not further fall behind. It really is a traditional high-voltage fixture for many reasons, considering the contrasting evolution of both these teams recently in the Premier League. While Manchester City are challenging at the top for Premier League, Liverpool have found it a hard struggle to qualify for Champions League for the past few seasons.
A win here for Manchester City would allow them to get ahead of Chelsea who were dented by Newcastle United and keep in within reaching distance of the League Leaders Manchester United. While a victory for Liverpool would allow them to keep in within touching distance of the much coveted Champions League spot.
Having racked up 4 wins and a Draw in their last 5 outings, Manchester City are the better looking team in terms of Confidence and Consistency. Not many expected the Defending champions to be 7 points adrift off the top at the beginning of the season. But any ardent Premier league fan would tell us that, life would never be the same after a title winning season. That is what Manchester City is going through. They have not found that swagger of last season, where they were stupendous in scoring goals.While City are getting to terms with life without the controversy loving striker Mario Ballotelli, they do look short in the striking department, considering Aguero and Tevez have been wayward.
And this is the reason why there is only one City player in the top 15 with most goals this season. It has been the prolific midfield of City that has been winning matches for them by scoring goals, thanks to the creative, non-stop working David Silva and Yaya Toure. While they will miss the services of Yaya Toure this weekend, they can still rely on their wealth of players to get them home against a Liverpool side that has not been their best in terms of defending, for one reason: they cannot afford to slip further by either going 8 points or 10 points behind by the time United finish their game tonight.
A 2-2 draw earlier in the season against the Defending Champions could well have been a 2-1 victory for Liverpool at Anfield, if not for a costly back pass from their Captain, Martin Skrtel which allowed City to knock in their 2nd goal. Every team going to the Etihad Stadium knows how hard it is to beat the defending champions at their own backyard, Brendan Rogers said “They’re the champions. They will be difficult to beat”. If we could plot the wins, draws and losses, the graph would show us how in-consistent this Liverpool side has been, not only throughout the season but in the last 6 matches as well.
This lack of consistency though has not got to their performances, especially after the capture of an additional striker in Daniel Sturridge over the January Transfer window. And as Brendan Rogers has stated time and again that this is work in progress thinking about the future where he is experimenting different combinations, different ideas with a team that is pretty much down in quality in mid-field barring Steven Gerrard. Luiz Suarez has been their Man of the season, time and again scoring most of their goals and single handedly taking in the burden of the lone striker until mid-January.
The arrival of Sturridge, who has scored 3 goals now, has relieved and taken much pressure off the Uruguayan. But only time will tell if this budding partnership would evolve in to being a lethal partnership at the front. If they can settle their back four to guard important leads like 2-0 lead (that they were up by against Arsenal), The Reds with their “desire” can definitely crack the much coveted Top 4 this season, since they are just 2 wins away from that spot.
Team and Injury News:
City are without their captain Vincent Kompany but the champions are hopeful Matija Nastasic (knee), who could only make the bench at QPR in midweek, will be fit to start. Right-back Maicon (knee) is back in training and could soon be available while fellow defender Micah Richards (knee) hopes to return this month. Midfielder Yaya Toure and defender Kolo Toure are still on international duty.
Manchester City: Hart, Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Nastasic, Lescott, Rekik, Clichy, Kolarov, Garcia, Rodwell, Barry, Milner, Nasri, Sinclair, Silva, Tevez, Dzeko, Aguero, Lopes.
New signing Philippe Coutinho will not be in the squad. The 20-year-old Brazilian has briefly returned to Milan after Wednesday’s switch from Inter and will not return until next week. Left-back Jose Enrique could start having made his comeback from a hamstring injury in the midweek draw at Arsenal.
Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Agger, Enrique, Gerrard, Lucas, Henderson, Downing, Suarez, Sturridge, Jones, Wisdom, Skrtel, Allen, Shelvey, Sterling, Borini, Coates, Suso.
It has been even-steven between these two teams over the last 7 times they have met each other in all competitions. City and Liverpool have won twice each, while drawing three times. Each of these two teams has been dominant at home against each other, having never lost at home for the last two years in this fixture. The last time Liverpool visited Manchester City at Etihad, they were comprehensively and badly beaten 3-0 last season.
Despite being 2nd in the table, City’s best goal scoring striker has been their much hailed “super sub” Edin Dzeko with 10 goals this season. While Liverpool’s Luiz Suarez has clear daylight between most of the others with 17 goals already this season.
Liverpool are in 2nd place among the top 8 teams at this point of the season, having conceded one goal less than Manchester United giving away 30 goals. The Defending champions though, have been very disciplined at the back giving away just 19 goals.
While both teams are looking to get back to winning ways to charge their season forward and keep pace with the rest, the pattern of home dominance and City’s superior midfield only suggests that the Defending champions would ease ahead of Liverpool. We predict a 3-1 victory for Manchester City.