Eight days ago, when the men from Merseyside visited Eastlands, few would have expected Pepe Reina to get frivolous over his duties while letting the ball reach the back of the net twice. An even smaller diaspora wouldai??i??ve expected the game to manifest into a one-way victorious performance considering how the reverse fixture panned out at Anfield earlier this season. It was an important night for Manchester City and Liverpool for their own reasons but Roberto Manciniai??i??s side walked away with three points; and rightfully so.

Their recent FA Cup exit at the hands of neighbouring rivals Manchester United might have only caused a small dent in the Citizensai??i?? ambitions this season. While it is a whole different thing to argue about the Premier League being Cityai??i??s sole focus this season, one cannot deny the fact that the blue half of Manchester has enough inventory at its disposal to challenge for the remaining couple of domestic trophies.

Tough Game on the Cards

City walk into the Carling Cup semi-final against Liverpool looking to keep the momentum going after their FA Cup loss. A win against the Reds will land them their first and probably the easiest shot at silverware this season. Facing Kenny Dalglishai??i??s side this time however will not be as easy as eating an apple pie. Mancini is missing several key players for this game including his star center-half, Vincent Kompany. Defense has been Cityai??i??s Achillesai??i?? heel which means they will have to take their game up a notch in order to prevent Liverpool from capitalizing any time.

Liverpoolai??i??s hunger for silverware has been on the rise ever since they were crowned winners of the Community Shield after a 2 ai??i?? 1 victory over Chelsea at the Millennium stadium. Although the squad does require strengthening before lining up against the bigger guns, football has become more pleasant at Anfield following the commencement of the Dalglish renaissance.

The Reds last won this trophy in 2003 against Cityai??i??s twin, Manchester United. Now, they are presented with a chance to trump the players in blue hue and take the penultimate step towards the trophy. Having just lost to City in the League, Liverpool would have learnt its lesson which makes this encounter all the more entertaining for the neutral and all the more difficult for Manchester City. Off pitch problems such as the racial abuse of Tom Adeyemi during the Oldham game and the assault charge on Stewart Downing have caused unrest in the camp but a win against the Sheikh’s army could restore some peace and tranquility amongst fans and players alike.

Teams News & Tactical Brief ai??i?? Manchester City

Mario Balotelli, David Silva and Edin Dzeko remain in the doubtful column for this game but even with these three big names missing from the side, the absence of Vincent Kompany will hurt the most. The 25 year-old Belgian has been the shining star in an otherwise dimly lit City defense this season. Kompany presented a prolific performance against Liverpool when the two sides met at Eastlands eight days ago but following the red card he picked up against Manchester United in the FA Cup, his suspension is bound to bring smiles upon the Liverpool players; especially after learning that the FA rejected the appeal for the red, reinforcing his four-match ban. Not all is bad for the City fans though as they welcome back Gareth Barry who returns to the squad after his suspension.

With Kompanyai??i??s absence, Cityai??i??s back-four has a huge responsibility to fulfill on Wednesday night. The likes of Lescott and Savic could be up against Andy Carroll who has broken his duck this year with a thundering strike against Oldham Athletic in the FA Cup. And, Gerrard and Bellamy lingering around the box isnai??i??t much of a respite, making it more difficult for the backline to maintain control

The presence of Yaya Toure was crucial to Cityai??i??s dominance against Liverpool during the last League encounter between these two sides. Lucasai??i?? absence did hurt then but then good news for the Reds fans now is that Yaya Toure (along with his brother, Kolo) will be missing on the pitch due to the African Cup of Nations this month. This leaves Mancini with no other option but to field Nigel de Jong as the defensive midfielder. Added to this, Silvaai??i??s inconclusive inclusion for this fixture means Adam Johnson could play out on the far left.

Barry will take the center of the park along with Nigel de Jong while James Milner could feature on the far right for City. If Dzeko is ruled out for sure, then Samir Nasri could again behind Sergio Aguero just like he did against Manchester United in the FA Cup.

Probable Starting Lineup (4-4-1-1): Hart, Richards, Lescott, Savic, Clichy, Milner, Nigel de Jong, Barry, Johnson, Nasri, Aguero

football formations

Probable Starting Line-ups

Team News & Tactical Brief ai??i?? Liverpool

Suarez continues to serve his eight-match suspension and will be watching the match from his home in Montevideo, Uruguay. Not too far away from Montevideo, in Brazil, Liverpoolai??i??s rise-to-fame player Lucas Leiva will be glued to the television set while nursing his injury. The Reds otherwise arenai??i??t missing any key players ahead of this fixture.

Eastlands hasnai??i??t really been a happy hunting ground for the Reds in the recent past. Liverpool have failed to score in five out of their last six encounters at the now-called Etihad stadium, with the last two games ending in 3 ai??i?? 0 defeats. However, with City showing a dip in form off late, it is the perfect opportunity for Dalglishai??i??s side to capitalize and earn a cup final in return.

When the Merseyside outfit visited the Citizens a little over a week back, their performance in the first half was rather docile. While they took the game to City in the reverse fixture at Anfield, it was not the case at Manchester. The presence of Spearing wasnai??i??t really threatening while Downing and Henderson failed to create an impact. Kuyt too, had a mediocre game by his standards. Overall, the Liverpool attack was frail and lacked purpose.

Apart from the team sheet, this mentality is what needs to change when the Reds face City on Wednesday. With a weakened defense, Liverpoolai??i??s attack, that could now comprise of Gerrard and Bellamy too, could draw first blood early on in the game. This will give them the confidence to control the game from both ends. Also, two players who were in desperate need of goals ai??i?? Carroll and Downing, finally scored in the FA Cup game against Oldham; this could lead Kenny to include the English duo in the team sheet for this fixture.

Probable Starting Lineup (4-2-3-1): Reina, Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Enrique, Bellamy, Gerrard, Henderson, Adam, Downing, Carroll

TheHardTackleai??i??s Player to Watch Out for:

Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)

Will he Steer them to the Finals?

He came when there were still thirty minutes on the clock against Newcastle United at Anfield. Not only did he start assisting Carroll, prodding his threat to bite Newcastle late in the game, he went on to score a wonderful goal himself. Gerrard also scored a penalty against Oldham, something which several Liverpool players have failed to do so this season. With him starting against a big side like City, it is definitely going to spread an air of confidence and positivity amongst his peers on the pitch. He is, our ai???Player to Watch Out forai??i??.

TheHardTackleai??i??s Prediction:

Manchester City 0 ai??i?? 1 Liverpool

If Liverpool can portray the right balance between patience and adhering to their style and gameplay, then this game will be a hard one to lose. But given that it is a cup semi-final and the return leg is at Anfield, Liverpool would be hoping to cause maximum damage and suffer minimum before facing Manchester City again in the return leg.

Also, considering that most of the players who are currently ruled out/doubtful could come back for the second leg, the Reds will definitely want to steal a march on their opponents in the away game. We predict a marginal victory for the Reds. It might not be enough, but it could just give the Reds that little bit more time to strengthen if they bring in a new striker in this transfer window.

TheHardTackleai??i??s Flashback:

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One Response to “Manchester City v Liverpool (Carling Cup Semi) – Preview: Kompany-less Blues Battle Gerrard’s Reds At The Etihad”

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  1. Sandeep says:

    It would be better to move Bellamy upfront with Carroll rather than him being the lone striker. Against a big team its good to have the experience of Bellamy upfront. Enrique is anyway there to move back and forth.And as for City’s defense they may not have Kompany, but that Savic kid is good. He’s played only a couple of games, but has shown his class in the opportunities he’s got. From the next article onward, trying putting up the probables on bench as well.

    My Prediction : 2-1 to city(Nasri,Aguero – Gerrard)
    Cheers