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Last four head-to-head:
2-2 (a) 02.03.13
2-2 (h) 08.26.12
2-2 (h; League Cup) 01.25.12
1-0 Liverpool (a; League Cup) 01.11.12
Last three matches:
Liverpool: 3-1 Cardiff (h); 5-0 Tottenham (a); 4-1 West Ham (h)
City: 4-2 Fulham (a); 3-1 Leicester (a); 6-3 Arsenal (h)
Liverpool: Suarez 19; Sturridge 9; Gerrard, Sterling 3; Coutinho, Flanagan, Henderson, Moses, Sakho, Skrtel 1
City: Agüero 13; Toure 9; Negredo 7; Nasri, Silva 4; Dzeko, Navas 3; Fernandinho 2; Kompany, Milner 1
Referee: Lee Mason
Guess at a line-up:
Kelly Skrtel Sakho Johnson
Sterling Suarez Coutinho
Gerrard, Sturridge, Enrique, and most likely Flanagan are out for Liverpool. Agüero, Nastasic, Richards, and most likely Zabaleta and Jovetic are out for Manchester City.
The festive period. Match after match after match. Squads pushed to the limit. It's the most wonderful time of the year.
Other than the probable absence of Jon Flanalahm thanks to a hamstring issue, I can't see any Liverpool changes. If it ain't broke, etc. There seems a small chance that Rodgers could rearrange things in an attempt to stifle City – change the center-back pairing or revert to three at the back – but he usually prefers to stick with a winning side, rotation and rest be damned. Given the way Liverpool have performed in the last two matches, I'd be surprised if it were otherwise.
And City will be difficult to stifle. They're the league's top scorers, the only club who've scored more than Liverpool, the only club with a better goal difference than Liverpool. They've won eight out of eight matches at home this season, scoring 35 while conceding just five. They've tallied six against Arsenal and Tottenham, four against United and Newcastle, and three against Everton at the City of Manchester Stadium. Yikes. To say the absolute least.
Pellegrini's side will line up in some variation of 4-2-3-1. Lately, it's been more of the 4-2-2-2 variety, with Negredo lurking off Dzeko or Agüero, Nasri and Silva wide, and Toure and Fernandinho taking turns bombing forward from midfield. And because of City's injuries, that set up seems likely tomorrow. Hart, returned to favor, in goal; Kompany and Demichelis at center-back, Toure and Fernandinho in midfield; Nasri, Negredo, and Silva in the attacking line of three; and Dzeko up top. With both Zabaleta and Richards missing, Clichy played at right-back, with Kolarov on the opposite flank, in the last match against Fulham. If the Argentinean is still unavailable, that'll probably be the case tomorrow as well.
Pellegrini could be slightly more conservative, playing either Negredo or Dzeko as the lone striker, bringing in Navas or Milner instead – Navas could pose a difficult challenge for whichever right-footed player lines up at left-back – with Silva lining up more centrally, or even pushing Toure further forward with Javi Garcia next to Fernandinho, but that seems the only potential change from last week's lineup.
It's been a Merry Christmas with Liverpool top of the league, something that hasn't happened in far too long, something that we should enjoy and celebrate after the torture and travails of the last few years. But it doesn't mean as much as we'd like given the next two matches to come. These two fixtures, starting with tomorrow's trip to Manchester, will go a long way towards deciding whether the league standing is a lie, whether Liverpool truly are contenders or pretenders.