MANCHESTER CITY FC
November 27, 2011; 14:00 GMT
They have so far scored 42 goals in 12 games this season. They have humiliated the ‘top’ teams, forcing them to wear the hood of astonishment and disappointment. Sheikh Mansoor is no Uncle Scrooge and his arrival was the harbinger of tough times for the rest of the Premier League clubs. Yes, competition is good and it is good to see the sun rise on a different side after the dominance of the top four all these years. However, if you aren’t supporting Manchester City at this moment, it is perhaps a direct implication of your disgust at their meteoric rise to power. The Citizens are the only unbeaten team in the Premier League so far and their current incumbency cannot, in any way, be attributed to mere luck. Roberto Mancini is brewing a strong team and its apparent. Whether City will win the title is a question that will be doing the rounds for some more time; but right now they will be looking to get past another important fixture – Liverpool.
En Route to Success?
The Premier League this season has imbibed a sense of ambivalence in Liverpool’s campaign. They have won tough games, drawn easy ones and lost a couple of tricky encounters at the hands of Tottenham and Stoke. However, all is not lost for the Reds. Their away form, one of their troubling issues, is better this season than the last. Dalglish’s men have secured four out of their six victories on the road. On the other hand, their home form has been disappointing by their own standards – all their four draws coming at Anfield. Liverpool need to up the ante if they are to reinstate the tag of Fortress upon Anfield. This incidentally brings Manchester City at the right time to Anfield. The Reds have just scripted a memorable victory at Stamford Bridge by handing the Blues something to worry about. A mix of confidence and a home crowd like that at Anfield can stimulate success. Maybe that is all Liverpool need – a little more belief. A win on Sunday will take them closer to the top four and Kenny’s squad has no reason not to go out all guns blazing.
Team News and Tactical Brief
The Reds’ roster is still acting as visiting faculty to Steven Gerrard. The player widely regarded as “Liverpool’s Talisman” hasn’t enjoyed time away from the pitch this season. Gerrard is currently recovering from his infection and it will be a while before he is back in action again. Carragher was declared match-fit for the Chelsea game but had to settle for a bench spot. It is likely to happen this weekend again. Kenny otherwise has very little to worry about as far as injuries are concerned. And one of the key points to be noted here is that the team has been boosted with the kind of quality that doesn’t ask for Gerrard’s presence to turn things around.
Brazilian midfielder Lucas recently spoke about Liverpool’s approach against Chelsea in the game at Stamford Bridge. The whole idea was to pressurize the opposition in their own half and try and get possession upfront. This is exactly why Charlie Adam had a successful game against the Blues. The boisterous Scot setup the first goal for Liverpool prior to Bellamy’s clever play with Suarez & Maxi.
Lucas has supported this strategy, which indicates that the Reds are likely to adopt this practice against Mancini’s side too. However, the Reds will have to be very careful because it is not easy to cope with City’s potent offense. The likes of Nasri, Silva, Aguero and Balotelli are a tough bunch to come up against and the Liverpool defenders cannot afford any lapse in concentration.
Liverpool will find it hard to keep the scorers from the blue side of Manchester at bay but their advantage in this game only comes from attack. If Liverpool play a high game with atleast 4 players involved in attack every time, then they will be giving the Citizens a run for their money. Ideally, a 4-2-3-1 formation will suit the Reds in this game. While the back four and the midfield duo of Lucas and Adam won’t change, upfront, we could see Kuyt, Suarez and Bellamy playing a high line behind Andy Carroll.
Carroll troubled the City defense when these two sides met in April last season and has a strong chance of making the cut again. With Bellamy, Suarez and Kuyt floating around him and Adam lining up ahead of Lucas in attack, the Reds shouldn’t find it particularly hard to create chances when in possession. Joe Hart will be a busy man this weekend and even Kenny Dalglish is convinced about this.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-2-3-1) : Reina, Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Enrique, Lucas, Adam, Kuyt, Suarez, Bellamy, Carroll
Probable Starting Lineups
Manchester City FC
Mancini has all systems running as he travels to Merseyside this weekend. A squad with that kind of depth will surely leave the Italian spoilt for choice; but the former Inter manager has so far succeeded with his selection when it comes to the Premier League and will undoubtedly pick the right starting XI to face Liverpool.
With Manchester United playing Newcastle United on the same weekend, Mancini would be aware that a victory for his neighbours will bring them within two points of his side. This makes City’s encounter against Liverpool all the more crucial. The gaffer won’t really be enjoying his pasta then. Expect an attacking Manchester City formation displayed on your screens on Sunday evening.
Balotelli and Aguero were scintillating against Manchester United towards the end of last month and are most likely to come up against the Liverpool defense. Yaya Toure has produced some stellar performances for his side ever since his arrival and will be the key to shut out Adam and Suarez. Kompany and Lescott will form the heart of defense while Richards and Kolarov will be the fullbacks.
City’s firepower will be generated by the midfield trio of Silva, Barry and Nasri. As it happens in most of City’s encounters, the left and right attacking players will switch sides, depending on the tempo of the game, which means Johnson and Enrique will have to be wary of their threat. Aguero and Balotelli will be taking the striking positions to complete City’s attack. Balotelli was phenomenal against their neighboring rivals, in the 1-6 thrashing and the Anfield faithful won’t be wishing to think why it’s always him. Aguero, ala Suarez, has quite a few skills in his repertoire and can give Skrtel and Agger a hard time. This will be the basic idea of fielding Maradona’s son-in-law.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-1-3-2) : Hart, Richards, Lescott, Kompany, Kolarov, Toure, Silva, Barry, Nasri, Aguero, Balotelli
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Andy Carroll (Liverpool FC)
Price-Tags are forgotten. Performances aren’t.
While most eyes will be glued to City’s play and Silva’s style, we think there is one man who can make the difference this weekend. Andy Carroll scored his first Premier League goal in a Liverpool shirt against Manchester City last season. He netted not one, but two goals past Joe Hart; something which is proving to be extremely difficult nowadays. With all the criticism that he has been subjected to, a good game against the league leaders this weekend will go a long way in erasing all the flak that has been thrown upon him.
Liverpool 2 – 2 Manchester City
There is a certain amount of unpredictability to this game, considering that Dalglish has orchestrated good performances against the top clubs so far this season. However, expect an open, attacking game from both ends with plenty of chances created and plenty of dives from either keeper. Manchester City clearly have the better team on paper and pitch but Liverpool have shown resilience and unity with a squad that is still very young as a unit. We hate to come up with a prediction for this game because our guess is as good as yours. Here’s hoping for an exciting encounter at the Anfield.
TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST