Manchester City went to Anfield hoping to get their first win at Anfield since 2003. But things didna t quite work out for Pellegrini`s men as they lost by 2-1 against an inspired Liverpool side.
Europa League, Thursday-Sunday schedule, a gruelling, demoralising penalty shootout loss to Besiktas in Turkey. Surely this was a golden opportunity for Manuel Pellegrini to close the gap within two points off Chelsea and reignite the title race. But City choked under pressure and Liverpool ran out deserved winners in the end, courtesy two stunning goals from Jordan Henderson and Phillipe Coutinho. Here are the game`s major talking points.
Allen and Henderson make merry
After Lucas and Gerrard got injured, Brendan Rodgers was left with the choice of moving Emre Can into midfield to partner Jordan Henderson or play Joe Allen alongside the Liverpool vice captain. The Liverpool manager chose the latter option, and a majority of Liverpool fans, who bemoaned that decision, saw it pay off today. The Welshman seems to fancy taking on the blues and this performance was right up there, just like when he faced them for the first time in a Liverpool shirt. He was all over the pitch, made vital interceptions and guarded the ball well. He positioning was excellent and he regularly released the ball quickly to the front trio, who caused lots of problems to the City defence.
Henderson was as excellent as Allen, and his superb curling effort just highlighted how the former Sunderland man has improved since Rodgers took over. The Liverpool captain, playing through the pain barrier on his foot, was relentless in his pressing throughout the ninety minutes, and like Allen, provided ammunition to the front three with his movement and positioning sense. All in all, it was a typical skipper`s performance and Liverpool fans would be happy that their future skipper would atleast soothe the absence of the mercurial Steven Gerrard.
Rodgers tactically outsmarts Pellegrini
Getting outsmarted tactically happens to many managers, but getting outsmarted twice in a row due to stubbornness is worth criticising. Pellegrini would have possibly been carried away by his 4-4-2 formation against Newcastle, and he thought the same formula would work against Barcelona and Liverpool. The City boss was taught a lesson by an excellent Barcelona side who ran them ragged with Iniesta, Rakitic and Busquets pulling the strings in midfield, with a hard working front three in Neymar, Suarez and Messi.
Despite knowing Liverpool would play with a similar tempo and deploy a front three, just like Barcelona, Pellegrini went in with Yaya Toure and Fernandinho in central midfield with Silva and Nasri on the flanks. Thata s three flair players in midfield with Fernandinho being the only one who is defensively minded/ even capable of defending. Silva, Nasri and Toure simply didna t back track when City lost possession and Liverpool just capitalised. It was a bit too late when Pellegrini brought Milner on to stabilise the midfield, and City simply had no answers to the question Brendan Rodgers` men posed.
Coutinho- Liverpool`s heartbeat
Given the City midfield`s misgivings and Yaya Toure`s lack of influence, credit has to be given to the Liverpool front three and Phillipe Coutinho in particular. The little Brazilian, who has been much criticised for the lack of an end product, again proved he has an eye for goal, with a brilliant curling effort to outfox Joe Hart. He has been particularly enjoying playing in this system since December and he is beginning to flourish. The former Inter man is always available to pick up the ball, be it very deep, sometimes from his own half and initiates attacks on the opposition.
Reality check for City`s rich under-performing squad
Pellegrini has spent almost 200 million pounds on player transfer and it`s safe to say that none of them have been stand out performers, barring Fernandinho at times and Frank Lampard (who was obtained on a free). So he`s basically playing the same squad he inherited from Roberto Mancini. Sure, City won two league titles, an FA Cup and League Cup in the Mancini-Pellegrini era, but poor transfers have made sure that they havena t reached the next level yet. (like defending the Premiership title or going beyond the group stage/ round of 16 in the Champions League). The Premier League title prospects for City looks a bit far-fetched at the moment with the blues 5 points off Chelsea having played a game less. With City`s rich owners expecting trophies and results over anything, it looks highly likely that Pellegrini`s head may roll at the end of the season. A new manager would freshen up things at The Etihad, but it looks like he may need to overhaul the squad completely as this one has many under performers at the moment.