April 13, 2014, 13:37 GMT
Liverpool FC and Manchester City go head to head at Anfield this weekend in a match being tipped as the season decider. Chelsea obviously do still remain in the title race as they’re currently sandwiched between the two sides, but if Liverpool or City come out with a win, they would be the favorites for the title. This game also sees the meeting between the two highest scoring sides in the Premier League this season – Liverpool (90) and Man City (84).
Team news and tactics
Liverpool will be entering the match on a high and with all the confidence they need. The side remains unbeaten in the league in 2014 and has won nine games on the run. Brendan Rodgers would hope that Liverpool extend that run and come out of this match with the imperative three points. A win would mean that the Reds would remain on the top and would create a seven point gap between City and themselves. However, City have the advantage of having played two less games than Liverpool. Hence the importance of a win is all the more important to the Merseyside club.
Brendan Rodgers has the advantage of having everyone fit for selection, barring Jose Enrique who has been ruled out for the remainder of the season. Returning from injuries, Lucas Leiva and Mamadou Sakho both played an important part in Liverpool’s 2-1 victory over West Ham. Lucas came on as a substitute in the second half and restored a lot of stability in the team’s display at Upton Park as Rodgers shifted from the 4-3-3 formation to the 4-4-2 diamond.
It remains to be seen what tactic Rodgers would employ against City. Whether he would want that stability in the centre to stop the many City attackers with playing a midfield of Gerrard, Lucas and Henderson or playing the formation Liverpool have often destroyed opposition numbers with- the 4-3-3 one with Coutinho playing his usual No.10 role and Sterling on the right flank and Sturridge and Suarez interchanging on the left with the other one playing as the forward, or Sterling on the left with SAS doing the same on the right. Liverpool used the 4-3-3 one to deal with Arsenal at Anfield and ended the match with a 5-1 scoreline. With their powerful counterattacking and a generally very attacking style of play, Rodgers would probably play the 4-3-3 formation, especially as they play at home.
Skrtel and Sakho would try to make sure that the likes of the ever-dangerous Toure, Silva, Nasri and Aguero not do much damage in the box. Gerrard would set up his attackers with long balls and also shield the defensive backline. The attacking quartet of Sterling, Coutinho and SAS would have to try to score or set up the ball for their fellow attackers to score to come out with a win.
The key for Liverpool to come out with a win is to play with the same tempo and attacking prowess as they have in their last few games. That is exactly why playing Coutinho right behind the main forward instead of getting Leiva or Allen to team up with Henderson a little behind is a better idea. Liverpool is going to win the game with goals, and that is why Rodgers would want Liverpool to play a high-intensity game to Anfield and be audacious.
Manchester City also go into the match with confidence of beating 4-1 in the previous encounter. However, the 1-1 draw against Arsenal could prove to be something that City end up ruing later come the end of the season.
Manuel Pellegrini would be delighted to field his strongest side against the league leaders on Sunday and talismanic striker Sergio Aguero is likely to start the match. City would hope their star striker gives the Liverpool defense a nightmare.
As far as stopping Liverpool is concerned, Pellegrini should do the same with Liverpool’s midfield duo, what Chelsea did only with Henderson in December-block the halfway line and contain the threat of Jordan Henderson and Steven Gerrard from weaving passes in City’s half. Both the players pick them with style and accuracy and usually set up Liverpool’s blistering fast attackers who do their business in the final third. The Chilean manager would turn to his midfield duo of Yaya Toure and Fernandinho for the task. Both the players are filled with energy and would perform the chore with success. If City is able to contain Henderson and Gerrard, they would frustrate Liverpool greatly as Sterling, Sturridge and Suarez won’t have anything to convert.
Pellegrini would also want his full backs, who are right on top of the list of the best full backs in the league to link up with the wingers on the respective flanks to cause Glen Johnson and Jon Flanagan problems. In fact, the two defenders with the most assists in the league this season are Kolarov (6) and Zabaleta (5). Flanagan is a young lad who has had a spectacular reinvention this season but he is vastly inexperienced when pitted against Jesus Navas and Pablo Zabaleta. Hence, City should use this as an advantage and create problems by opening the width of the game. David Silva too would cause Steven Gerrard and Lucas Leiva, if Rodgers goes with two defensive midfielders, as he roams freely and drifts between defenders with great effect.
Probable City Lineup (4-2-3-1): Hart; Zabaleta, Demichelis, Kompany, Kolarov; Fernandinho, Toure; Navas, Silva, Nasri; Aguero
- Liverpool have won all four home meetings with fellow members of the top seven so far this season, scoring 14 and conceding just once.
- Man City have only won one of their previous 16 Barclays Premier League matches at Anfield (D5 L10), with that win coming back in May 2003.
- This game will see the two players with the most goals from dead ball situations in the Premier League this season (free kicks + penalties) – StevenGerrard (12) and Yaya Toure (10). Gerrard has also provided the most assists from dead ball situations this season in the Premier League (7).
- Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero has scored in five successive Premier League appearances and has netted six goals in his last six away games in the competition.
Facts from uk.eurosport.yahoo.com
Player to watch out for
Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)
Liverpool’s captain has been in spectacular form of late. The club legend has been imperative in leading his side’s title challenge and is helping his club with his footballing skills as well as leadership ones to make a great thrust for the league win. For Manchester City to come out on top, they would have to make sure they stop Gerrard from linking up the play with his accurate passes and mouthwatering diagonal long balls to his attackers. Gerrard plays in the holding midfielder role and has stepped up his performances in the defense role, shielding his back line and the likes of Toure, Silva and Nasri would have to work very hard to dominate the second third with the presence of the England captain. The 33 year old also thrives in pressure cooker situations and hence if it did come to a late penalty, which Liverpool invite a lot with their impressive attacking play, Steven Gerrard would again step up to the occasion. City would have to mentally and physically outplay Liverpool’s in-form midfielder.
Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
The Argentinian has missed wide chunks of the campaign with multiple and recurring injuries, but would be playing a large role in Sunday’s tie. Liverpool know the threat Aguero carries as he is a wonderful poacher of the ball and does not let defenders live from their mistakes. The visiting side would hope that the 28 year old marks the match with style and makes sure the Sky Blues return to Manchester with the precious three point. Manchester City would become the title favorites if they win the match against Liverpool and halt their unbeaten run of nine games. For the club to do that, Pellegrini would hope Aguero steps up to the occasion and scores to get their title challenge extended. The Reds defenders are going to be in for a long night defending against a player of Aguero’s caliber. He is going to be Manchester City’s most important man.
Liverpool 2-2 Manchester City
Liverpool and Manchester City are Premier League’s most attacking sides. They play the attacking game and rely more on goals than defending against goals for wins. Both sides have relied on their attack to sometimes get the defence out of the jail. However, when the two have met the last three times in the league, the ties ended looking like 2-2, 2-2, 2-1(to City). Liverpool are going to be threatening at home and would probably score an early goal. But if City manage to equalize before the half time, which they probably will, expect the match to end in a draw. A final scoreline of 2-2 looks most likely.