Preview: Liverpool v Manchester City
In a battle of the under-performers, City go to Liverpool with both sides knowing that a victory is required to kickstart their League campaign. A draw would normally be a decent result for us, but having just witnessed five increasingly demoralising stalemates, a victory is now required to lift City back into top-four contention.
In terms of results, the situation has been worse at Liverpool where Rafa Benitez is under real pressure. If Mark Hughes’ side can take the initiative, then the fragile confidence at Anfield could crack. Likewise the same could happen to our self-belief if Liverpool expose any defensive weaknesses.
Mark Hughes will have the advantage of picking from a near full-strength squad, with even Robinho being ready for a place on the bench according to one report. Martin Petrov was the only casualty over the international period, but it’s likely that Hughes would have gone with Craig Bellamy to combat the attacking Glen Johnson anyway.
This will be a key battle that could prove a barometer of how well City perform. It Bellamy can exploit the defensive weakness of Johnson and keep him looking over his shoulder then City are likely to be in the ascendency. If Bellamy spends the majority of the match tracking Johnson in the direction of our penalty area, then things won’t be going well.
On the opposing flank, Shaun Wright-Phillips will be similarly employed. Let’s hope he can repeat the man of the match performance against Burnley rather than the disappointing outing against Brazil.
Carlos Tevez is likely to start behind Emmanuel Adebayor, and it is to be hoped they can exploit any sign of weakness in a Liverpool defence that’s looked unusually vulnerable this season..
Nigel de Jong is a natural returnee for this type of fixture and Hughes is most likely to pair him alongside Gareth Barry. This duo can be overly defensive and personally I would like to see how a de Jong-Ireland pairing works. There would be something of an irony in dropping Barry for this match given how he was courted by Benitez. On second thoughts, the fixture may bring out the best in the England man.
Wayne Bridge and Joleon Lescott were slaughterd after Burnley, but excellent against Brazil. Hughes is likely to keep faith with his defensive line-up, and let’s hope this England duo can bring their international form to club level.
It’s difficult to determine the team we’ll be facing as the international break has enabled Liverpool players to recuperate from their various injuries. Gerrard and Johnson are likely to start. Aquilani will more likely be on the bench. Benayoun, Riera and even Torres are supposedly in with a chance of playing.
With the pressure on, Benitez has been in the habit of rushing players back from injury only to see them hobble off again. It will be an indication of the importance with which he views this game as to how many he takes a chance on against City.
“Liverpool have been at the top end of the table and in Europe for a long, long time but we have to go to places like Anfield and get results.
“We showed with our performance at Old Trafford that we are more than capable of going to the ‘big 4’ clubs and turning in good performances.”
The first line is true enough, but aside from Shay Given and Craig Bellamy, the second line is far more questionable. It will need a much better performance from the team as a whole if we’re to get anything at Anfield.
“Our main aim is to be in one of the Champions League places by finishing in the top four.
“So we need to go to Liverpool and prove we can take one of those places they want to be involved in.”
That’s more like it from Roque, even if he will be on the bench. Vincent Kompany, Nedum Onuoha and Micah Richards are also likely to looking on from the sidelines.
Blue Days line-up: Given, Bridge, Lescott, Toure, Zabaleta, de Jong, Ireland, Bellamy, Wright-Phillips, Tevez, Adebayor.
Prediction: 1-2 to City.
Some highlights from yesteryear to put you in the mood: