City of Manchester Stadium, Manchester.
Kick-Off : 24th Aug, 2010 – 00:30 IST, Live on ESPN
It’s time to face the Acid Test for the “Billionaires in Blue” at Manchester City. After spending a fortune to assemble a star studded squad, they will be expected to perform not only as a Top-4 side but as Champions in the making in their first home game of the season. The visitors at The Eastlands will be none other than Liverpool, a side whose downfall last season had a direct cause-affect relationship, in some part, to the high-flying ambitions of the Blue half of Manchester.
Man City have just acquired the services of long term pursuits James Milner and Mario Balotelli, both potentially key players for a successful season. On the contrary, Liverpool’s squad may have been left a bit uncomfortable due to the emergence of reports suggesting Inter Milan chasing after Dirk Kuyt – which were confirmed by his agent later. Alberto Aquilani has also agreed to a one year loan deal with Juventus.
Man City’s first game at Tottenham left a lot to be desired. It was as disjointed a performance as it could be and they were unbelievably lucky to leave with a point. But it is to be expected from a newly built team in the first game of the season. Liverpool’s performance against Arsenal, on the contrary, was lauded as a very passionate and determined one, something which they seemed to have lost in the last few weeks under Rafael Benitez. However, they still seemed to lack that cutting edge even with 11 men, without Fernando Torres upfront.
Torres could get his first start of the season after he looked untroubled in his performance against Arsenal. But Joe Cole will be missing through suspension, as he begins his three match ban due to his straight red in the same match. Daniel Agger is also doubtful after suffering concussion in the Arsenal game; as is Javier Mascherano who suffered a calf injury – but is reportedly recovering well. Christian Poulsen who played in the midweek win over Trabzonspor in the Europa League could be started if the Argentine doesn’t make it. For City, Aleksander Kolarov (ankle) and Jerome Boateng (knee) have been ruled out due to injury. Mario Balotelli, who came on as a sub to score the winner in the Timisoara win, picked up a knock in the same match and will be monitored for signs of improvement by Mancini. The big news however would be the debut for James Milner who has finally become part of the glittering ensemble at Manchester City.
Liverpool and Manchester City have produced three draws out of their four matches played in the last 2 years and all have been closely fought. Liverpool won their match at Eastlands in 2009 by coming back from two goals down to win 3-2. However, for the last City win we have to travel back to April 2005. Including that loss, Liverpool has lost a total of just two matches in the last 36 meeting between the two. However you feel City will hardly worry about that as they are on a journey to create their own history.
TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch Out For: STEVEN GERRARD
Agreed there are other expensive superstars and World Cup winners on the pitch, but this is the man who still makes all the difference in most of Liverpool’s matches. His performance against Arsenal was classic ‘Captain Fantastic’ stuff as he contributed in every department of the play. And after being rested for the Europa League clash midweek, he’ll be relishing an opportunity to dictate play against arguably the best defensive midfield squad in the English league.