25 August 2012

Liverpool v Manchester City 08.26.11

11am ET, live in the US on FSC

Last four head-to-head:
2-2 (h; Carling Cup) 01.25.12
1-0 Liverpool (a; Carling Cup) 01.11.12
0-3 City (a) 01.03.12
1-1 (h) 11.27.11

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 1-0 Hearts (a); 0-3 West Brom (a); 3-0 Gomel (h)
City: 3-2 Southampton (h); 3-2 Chelsea (n; Community Shield)

Referee: Andre Marriner

Guess at a line-up:
Johnson Skrtel Coates Enrique
Lucas Allen
Downing Gerrard Borini

Will it be Carragher or Coates who replaces the suspended Agger? Will Enrique be fit? Otherwise, the XI writes itself.

I may be seeing what I want to see in the entrails, but all signs point to Coates instead of Carragher. At 34, Carragher's not likely to play against both Hearts and City in four days. Rodgers had to have noticed how poorly Carragher coped with a high back line against West Brom, even if Liverpool were down to 10, with Lukaku embarrassing him twice, once to set up Morrison's missed sitter then eluding him to head in West Brom's third. And Coates, for all his youthful error-prone tendencies, is both quicker and taller, better equipped to cope either with Tevez's speed or Dzeko's aerial ability.

If Enrique is unavailable, I expect the same full-back pairing as against West Brom, with Kelly on the right and Johnson shifting over to the left. Johnson is far better on the right, especially going forward, and makes Liverpool far, far better when he's on the right, but he's still a capable defender on the left. None of West Brom's three goals came from his area of the pitch. And Liverpool's full-backs will be far more focused on defending against City than they were against West Brom.

Maybe there's a slight chance of three at the back – Kelly-Coates-Skrtel, with Johnson and Enrique or Downing as wing-backs – but that seems incredibly unlikely this early in Rodgers' tenure.

Otherwise, the front six should remain the same as last weel, all of them obvious choices at their positions. Suarez will continue to play as the central "striker" with Borini on the left, rather than vice versa, as I've seen suggested by a few. We'll also likely get our first glimpse of Oussama Assaidi, even if it's only a glimpse of him planted firmly on the bench. If any speedy winger is going to come on as a substitute, chances are it's Sterling after his performance against Hearts.

Manchester City remain the league favorites, remain the benchmark. They've scored three in both of their competitive fixtures this season, albeit conceding two in each. Agüero may be injured, but Tevez, Balotelli, and Dzeko remain available. Nasri was outstanding in both matches, scoring in each, assisting Tevez's opener against Southampton. More importantly, City had to overhaul a deficit in both matches, down 0-1 to Chelsea and 1-2 to Southampton. As cliché as it is, that's what champions do. Incidentally, Liverpool came back to win just four matches last season: the 2-1 Carling Cup win at Stoke, the 3-1 league win against Newcastle, and the 5-1 and 2-1 FA Cup wins against Oldham and Everton.

I'm curious to see how City deal with Agüero's absence. Dzeko replaced him against Southampton, switching from a 4-2-3-1 formation to a 4-2-2-2, but I don't expect that to be the case tomorrow. My suspicion is that Milner will come into the side, most likely on the right, with Silva moving to a more central position. But it's not as if the league champions lack for options. City also played three at the back in the Community Shield, as they did against Liverpool in the second leg of the Carling Cup semi-final last season, but I doubt that'll be the case tomorrow; the back four should be Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, and either Clichy or Kolarov.

With Gareth Barry still injured, either Rodwell or de Jong will partner Yaya Touré in midfield. Both are liabilities for different reasons, whether de Jong's savage indiscipline or Rodwell's mistakes – as we saw against Southampton. Of course, I also can't forget de Jong's unfathomable goal in the second leg of the Carling Cup semi-final, one of just two he's scored for the club. Lucas and Allen winning the midfield battle, as Lucas did in the 1-1 draw against City last season (one of many draws that Liverpool "deserved" to win) is Liverpool's best hope for winning the match.

This is the first chance to see if last season's "best" quality continues: Liverpool's ability to raise its game against the toughest opposition. Three of Liverpool's four matches against Manchester City were three of Liverpool's most impressive matches of the season: a 1-1 draw that was only a draw because of Hart's miraculous saves, a supremely solid 1-0 away win after taking an early lead, and a battling 2-2 draw where Liverpool twice came back from a goal down to advance to the Carling Cup final. We'll just forget the 0-3 demolishment at the Etihad.

And, hopefully, tomorrow's match will make us forget about last week's 0-3 embarrassment.


Anonymous said...

I am very intrigued by the possibility of Rodgers playing Downing at LB, even without playing three in the back. Perhaps it is because I don’t rate Enrique, but I really think that as a wing back Downing could be effective and given our depth in midfield it could allow Gerrard to move up to the wide forward position where he has had success, possibly with Carroll in the middle.


FoolishMoose said...

If Enrique is fit, I say Kelley at CB

Jay Wright said...

I agree with the lineup proposed in the article (aside from switching Borini to be primarily a striker, and also with the comments above that I'd like to see Downing more at fullback (if he has to be seen at all!) and Kelly considered a centreback (ahead of Carragher in the pecking order).

Last week's game only became a laugher after we went down to 10 men and seemingly pretty much gave up, so the result isn't entirely reflective of the quality of our squad. Nor was the use of the squad in the Hearts game imho.

As always this early before kickoff, I remain optimistic that we can get a victory this afternoon with just a little tinkering.

jonnySingapore said...

downing is NOT a left back. He can run but that's about it, and I'm sure Rodgers saw that in the 30 mins at hearts having been impressed by Robinson.

Wow, Coates in the starting lineup. You would have thought he might have got at least 30mins on Thursday to brush out a few cobwebs.

His height (for dzeko) and more mobility than carra is clearly the reason, I'm just worried that this is a massive game to put him in without oiling the joints.

Sterling seems high risk but clearly he wants his pace more than Downing!!

Also, Rodgers gets the crowd on side playing the youngsters.

A massive step up in standards is required from last week.

Hopefully fitness will be better, that simply didn't look good enough last week.

And Gerrard needs to turn up this week too, that might bring borini into it more.