13 April 2007

Liverpool at Manchester City 04.14.07

10am, available in the US on FSC.

Liverpool: 4th place; 60 points out of 32 games
City: 12th place; 40 points out of 32 games

Last 4 meetings:
1-0 Liverpool (h) 11.25.06
1-0 Liverpool (h) 02.26.06
1-0 Liverpool (a) 11.26.05
0-1 City (a) 04.09.05

Last 3 games:
Liverpool: 1-0 PSV (h); 2-1 Reading (a); 3-0 PSV (a)
City: 3-1 Fulham (a); 0-0 Charlton (h); 1-0 Newcastle (a)

Goalscorers (league; more than one goal):
Liverpool: Kuyt 10; Crouch 9; Bellamy 7; Gerrard 5; Alonso, Fowler, Garcia 3; Agger, Gonzalez 2
City: Barton 6; Samaras 4; Corradi 3; Beasley, Distin, Mpenza, Vassell 2

Referee: Uriah Rennie (in only his 4th match since late January)

Guess at a squad:
Finnan Carra Agger Arbeloa
Pennant Gerrard Mascherano Gonzalez
Kuyt Crouch

Seems likely that those who were rested on Wednesday (Gerrard, Finnan, Carra, Mascherano) would start here. Gerrard, Finnan, and Carragher are pretty much no-brainers after sitting out against PSV, they are key players, and I’ll be honestly surprised if they don’t start for a second game running. And I really want to see Mascherano and Gerrard play together in the center again. The Sheffield game was a nice start, but the more those two play together, the sky’s the limit as to how good the pairing can be. On paper, Masch seems to compliment Gerrard very well, sitting in front of the back four covering while Gerrard does what he does best, attack from any and all angles through the middle.

Bellamy looks to be out until the CL semi-final, and thankfully it’s only until then and not as serious as it looked, so a Kuyt/Crouch pairing looks to be expected for the foreseeable future. It’s tempting to want to start Fowler against his old club, but after going over an hour on Wednesday, I don’t think that’s likely.

I know Arbeloa’s billed as a right back and is naturally right-footed, but I’ve been more impressed with his play at left back. Maybe his performances against Messi and Barca overshadow, but I thought he was just as good against Reading, and his goal makes little difference in that assessment. Other than one moment early on, when Arbeloa pulled too far inside leaving Oster open on the right, he was very solid defensively, and I’d like to see him get another chance in that position.

After a precarious period, City look to be secure following a four match unbeaten run where they picked up the 10 points needed to get them to the 40 point total frequently considered safe. It looks again this year that 40 will be the magic number. They’ve finally put together a good run, and seemingly kept Pearce’s job, as for awhile there Psycho looked likely to be getting sacked.

Emile Mpenza has been a key to their “resurgence.” Samaras and Corradi have been flops, to not mince words, and the signing of the journeyman Belgian striker in late February has brought some much-needed goals. Liverpool will have to be wary of Mpenza on the break; I’ve been wrong predicting this in the past, but given the way City has played Liverpool recently, I’m expecting 10 men behind the ball, and Mpenza as the lone outlet will be City’s best chance for goals. Although the fairly free-scoring Scouse midfielder Joey Barton will assuredly be up for the game as well.

Liverpool v City has been a close game in all the recent meetings, and looking at the last few, a 1-0 result is far from out of the question. Liverpool must put their chances to use; this seems like it could be one of those frustrating away days where Liverpool has a ton of possession but struggles to carve out true opportunities or to put those opportunities in the net. The second PSV leg aside, the last few games have seen Liverpool more prolific than in the past, and it’ll be essential they continue that trend.

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