Etihad Stadium, Manchester
21st November, 2015
It is a must-win clash for both the teams, as Manchester City face off against the travelling Liverpool party on Saturday evening, at the Etihad stadium. Both the sides are currently locked in their own battles against Arsenal FC and Everton FC respectively, and would very much like to get the three points on the board.
Although it is a clash between the first and the 10th placed teams, Liverpool FC’s form has seen some semblance of a resurgence under the stewardship of new boss Jurgen Klopp, in spite of a loss to Crystal Palace in their last home game.
Team News and Tactical Brief
For Manchester City and their steely-eyed manager Manuel Pellegrini, it should be business as usual against Liverpool, as most of their squad returns from the international break. They need to get the three points that will help keep themselves abreast of Arsenal FC, who are marginally behind City on goal difference.
They would be without club captain Vincent Kompany who is having to sit it out with a calf injury. However, Pellegrini does have a huge squad at his disposal, and he should not have any problem is slotting Nicolas Otamendi beside Eliaquim Mangala in the heart of the Manchester City defence, with Bacary Sagna and Aleksandar Kolarov flanking them.
It looks to be the same as usual in the midfield, with Ivorian Yaya Toure leading the charge from the centre and Kevin De Bruyne being the creative influence from behind the striker. One key sub-plot in this match lies in Manchester City’s left wing, where former Liverpool FC player Raheen Sterling is set to meet a world of hostilities from the away stands.
However, Manchester City has player who have had to face hostile fans from former clubs, with the likes of former Arsenal FC players Bacary Sagna, Gael Clichy, and Samir Nasri, and the Englishman would surely get enough tips on how to handle the pressure.
A big issue for Pellegrini is the fact that he is a bit depleted in the creative department, with Nasri being ruled out for another three months, and David Silva doubtful for the game, However, the Spaniard was seen training with the first team, and is expected to be on the bench, should the Chilean need to call him up, later in the game.
The biggest dilemma for Pellegrini though is whether or not to start with top marksman Sergio Agureo, who is making a comeback from a long layoff from a hamstring injury. Although the Argentinian has said that he hopes to be back for this match, there would still be niggling though at the back of Pellegrini’s head, about whether or not to play him.
Adding to Pellegrini’s dilemma is the fact that second-choice striker Wilfried Bony has been ruled out for the game with a hamstring injury of his own. There is of course, the option of starting with the talented 19-year-old Nigerian striker Kelechi Iheanacho, but this being a high intensity game, Pellegrini might have to think twice (or 10 times) before making this decision.
Probable Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Hart; Kolarov, Otamendi, Mangala, Sagna; Toure, Fernandinho; Sterling, De Bruyne, Navas; Iheanacho.
The Reds would invariably looking to bring their high-intensity heavy-metal football to the plate, at the Etihad Stadium, with manager Jurgen Klopp demanding nothing less than 110 per cent work rate from his players. However, how much of that will work against City is yet to be seen.
Even Klopp has his injury worries though, as he would not be able to field his preferred centre-back combination of Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho. The latter hobbled off with a knee injury in the last game against Liverpool FC, and is set to be out of action till at least the new year. He has an able replacement in the form of Dejan Lovren to pair-up with Skrtel, although the Croat has not been in the best of form lately.
He was the preferred choice for former manager Brendan Rodgers, but his consistent dip in form meant that he would eventually go on to lose his place in the team.
While Klopp prefers to play a creative midfielder behind his strikers, he might just go for a more reserved three-man setup in midfield, considering the might of their opposition. Both Lucas Leiva and Emre Can are known more for thier defensive capabilities that their creative ones, while ex-City man James Milner would add his brand of industriousness to the setup. This should make it difficult for Manchester City to break Liverpool FC down.
There is also an amount of fluidity in this setup, as Liverpool can switch from a defensive 4-3-3 to a 4-2-3-1, with Milner slotting in behind the striker. He could also take the right flank, as he often did at Manchester City, with Coutinho or Firminho being the creative influence in the middle.
Klopp has his own worries about his strike force, as Daniel Sturridge seems to be on the brink of making a comeback from his knee injury. There is the obvious risk of repeating the injury, if Sturridge is pushed too far, and he is most likely to start from the bench. Christian Benteke would look to be the big strong centre forward that he is, and bully the Manchester City defence.
Probable Starting XI (4-3-3): Mignolet; Moreno, Lovren, Skrtel, Clyne; Can, Lucas, Milner; Coutinho, Benteke, Firminho.
- Manchester City have won four of their last six Premier League encounters against Liverpool FC
- The Citizens have scored at least two goals in 12 of their last 13 Premier League matches.
- They have also created 221 chances this season, which is the highest so far in the league.
- However City needs to be careful about Philippe Coutinho, as he has scored thrice in Liverpool FC’s last four Premier League matches against them.
- Liverpool FC have only managed 13 goals in the Premier League so far this season, which is their lowest after 12 matches.
Player to watch out for
Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
The Belgian playmaker has been in blistering form this season, with three goals and four assists so far, and would play a crucial part in breaking down the Manchester City defence. In the possible absence of Aguero and Silva, he would look to both create and score the goals, as City try to continue their challenge for the Premier League title.
Manchester City 4-1 Liverpool FC
Jurgen Klopp likes his team to press high up the pitch. While this worked wonders against Chelsea FC, it may not be such a wise move against Manchester City. All the City defenders — Kolarov, Otamendi, Mangala and Sagna are quite comfortable on the ball, and do not find it too difficult to pass it around, even under pressure. Thus, Klopp’s ‘heavy metal football’ might turn out to be Liverpool FC’s downfall in this match.