Liverpool seek revenge for their Capital One Cup final heartbreak while Manchester City aim to pull away from city rivals Manchester United to consolidate their place in the top four of the Premier League table.
Liverpool’s domestic season is effectively over, but the prospect of threatening Manchester City’s place in the Top 4 ahead of Pep Guardiola’s arrival next summer is motivation enough for the Reds in front of their own fans at Anfield.
City, on the other hand, have stuttered midway into the title race. Despite the indisputable title-winning pedigree they have shown over the last five years, the Citizens are currently closer to fifth-placed Manchester United than they are to leaders Leicester City. Manuel Pellegrini’s men have one foot in the hitherto unknown territory of the Champions League last eight, but cannot afford to lose their focus in the domestic league.
Jurgen Klopp vs Manuel Pellegrini
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and Manchester City coach Manuel Pellegrini are no strangers, having come up against each other in the quarter-finals of the Champions League when they were in charge of Borussia Dortmund and Malaga respectively.
Earlier this season, the German mastermind scripted a stunning 4-1 win at the Etihad in their first meeting in the English Premier League. However, Manchester City avenged that defeat by winning the Capital One Cup final on Sunday. Klopp will look to shift the balance of power in his favour when the two sides meet once again on Wednesday at Anfield.
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Klopp will want more of the same fighting spirit from the Reds
Playing Manchester City once is hard enough; playing against them twice in four days given the catalogue of injuries Liverpool have suffered leaves Klopp with very little room to rotate his squad. The good news for the manager is that Adam Lallana got 60 minutes under his belt, while Joe Allen has regained fitness and has been back in training with the rest of the Liverpool squad. Jordan Ibe is also an option for the manager in terms of injecting the Reds with more pace on the flanks.
Klopp is good at making subtle changes to his game plan for every situation, but the German manager will be limited by the options within his squad. Lucas and Kolo Toure are the only senior players available to play at centre-half, and with Lucas also being the club’s only specialist defensive midfielder, this will result in Klopp having to set up his team on Wednesday in a manner similar to the one that played the Cup final at Wembley.
Pellegrini will look to rotate and keep his squad fresh
Given the importance of the three games that followed Manchester City’s tie against Chelsea in the FA Cup, Pellegrini’s decision to rest several first-team players seems vindicated. Unlike his opposite number, he has more room to rotate and keep his squad fresh.
The fact that it is a league game and not a Cup final means that Fernandinho does not have to be a right winger once again, while Kolarov’s absence both against Dinamo Kiev and at Wembley means that he can return to the line-up and support former Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling on the left flank. Pablo Zabaleta could start once again on the right.
Daniel Sturridge vs Vincent Kompany
Manchester City are a completely different team with Vincent Kompany in the lineup. The same is true, perhaps to a greater extent, with respect to Liverpool and Daniel Sturridge. Sturridge could barely walk at the end of extra-time on Sunday, but could recover from his bout of cramps in time to face his former club for a second time in the same week. Kompany, for all his pedigree, is also capable of making mistakes. Who will blink first?
Sergio Aguero vs Lucas Leiva
The concussion suffered by Mamadou Sakho in the early stages of the Capital One Cup final meant that Lucas shouldered the responsibility of leading Liverpool’s defensive efforts at Wembley. The absence of Liverpool’s other central defenders could mean that Lucas will need to put in another 90-minute shift as a centre-back — against Sergio Aguero no less. The Brazilian will need to be at the top of his game at Anfield on Wednesday night, and even that may not be enough.
Aleksandar Kolarov and Raheem Sterling vs Nathaniel Clyne
Raheem Sterling missed two gilt-edged chances to put the Capital One Cup final to bed, but the fact that he was close enough to scoring is indicative of the danger his pace can pose to the Liverpool defence. Serbian left-back Aleksandar Kolarov, on the other hand, could be thrown in at left-back to give Gael Clichy a rest. His ability to support the wingers in attack will allow City the opportunity to double-team Nathaniel Clyne on Liverpool’s right side.
- Liverpool are one of the better sides in the Premier League at implementing a pressing game, especially against the technically proficient, possession-based teams in the league.
- Liverpool have been abysmal at defending set pieces for nearly four seasons now. Missing central defenders will only make life harder on Wednesday.
- The Reds get caught offside too often with Christian Benteke and Roberto Firmino being the main culprits.
- Manchester City are potent at counter attacks, and will be a big threat on the break given the likelihood of Liverpool conceding an early goal on Wednesday night.
- Manchester City are vulnerable defensively, especially so in the absence of Vincent Kompany. The decision to potentially rest Kompany is a crucial one for Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini.
- Yaya Toure’s lack of appetite for helping his teammates in defence could give Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino some freedom in the centre of the park.