10am Eastern Time, live in the US on FSC
Last 4 head-to-head:
1-0 Liverpool (h) 05.04.08
0-0 (a) 12.30.07
0-0 (a) 04.14.07
1-0 Liverpool (h) 11.25.06
Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 3-1 PSV (h); 2-0 Everton (a); 2-1 Crewe (h)
City: 2-1 Omonia Nicosia (h); 1-2 Wigan (a) 2-2 Brighton (a)
Referee: Peter Walton
Guess at a squad:
Arbeloa Carragher Skrtel Aurelio
Kuyt Gerrard Mascherano Babel
You have no idea how tempted I am to guess the 4-2-3-1 again. There are all the reasons I’ve listed throughout the last few posts, as well as the fact that this will be a tough away game (that’s often very cagey) against a team with some offensive firepower.
But I’ve been wrong an awful lot lately. Not to blow my own horn, but wrong far more than is usual. So I’ve learned my lesson a bit, and will probably be guessing 4-4-2 until there's evidence we might see something different.
Which means that Torres and Keane will be up top again, and we’re starting to see signs of a blossoming partnership. Keane set up Torres for one of the derby goals, and Torres returned the favor against PSV.
In addition, I’ve been quite pleased with how Kuyt’s joined them in attack. Kuyt’s still a workhorse, getting up and down the flanks, but he’s been involved in a fair few of the goals lately. There was his opener against PSV, but he was crucial in the build-up to both of Torres’ against Everton: first, with his run to draw the defender so Torres had space, and second, with Jagielka making a last-ditch tackle on Kuyt in the box only for the ball to fall to Torres.
The above paragraph is the key to the 4-4-2. If Kuyt can support the attack, cut in, and add a third man in the box, Liverpool will score goals. And it’s especially helpful that there’s a player like Riera on the other flank to stay wide. As has happened in the past, Benitez looks like he wants one winger to stay wide and one that can cut in. Earlier in this season, when Benayoun and Kuyt were on the flanks more often than not, Liverpool was too narrow and suffered because of it. That’s not happening with Riera in the mix.
But, given that the new signing has started the last two games, I’d be surprised if he did for a third. He needs to be given time to adapt to the English game and to get to full fitness. I love what he’s added to the team, and I’m fully aware that my guess of Babel and Kuyt on the flanks somewhat contradicts the last paragraph, but it sort of seems too much, too quick. Plus, we haven’t seen enough of Babel lately, although I’m sure Riera is dying to play against his former club.
Even though Gerrard and Alonso have been excellent in the middle of late, I’ll be very surprised if Mascherano doesn’t return to the fold, especially after Benitez’s comments about keeping him out Wednesday so he’ll be fitter for Sunday. And with players like Robinho, Wright-Phillips, Elano, and Jo in the opposition, Mascherano’s defensive capabilities will be essential.
Even though City’s now the richest team in the world, they’re still beatable, evidenced by last weekend’s game against Wigan. Amr Zaki and Heskey both caused City problems, and Robinho et al struggled to break down a determined opposition. City will probably continue with the 4-5-1, with Jo; Robinho, Ireland, Wright-Phillips; Elano and Kompany. And Liverpool will have to find away to break through that midfield while mindful of the speed with which City can counter.
Sunday will be a stern test of Liverpool’s progress. But, so were the matches against Manchester United and Everton.