25 December 2013

Liverpool at Manchester City 12.26.13

12:30pm ET, live in the US on NBC Sports

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)

Goalscorers (league):
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
Henderson Allen
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.


drew said...

Not sure that the City game says anything about a potential title challenge, as there's no shame in losing to the eventual runners-up in their place so long as you beat them at yours.

The Chelsea game seems more important, as they look genuinely wobbly at times. Still, in the interest of keeping crushing despair at bay, I'm hoping for one point out of these two matches, and prepared for zero.

Err, um, happy Christmas, Nate!

Anonymous said...

Expecting a hard fought match tomorrow. Not to allow ourselves to get steamrolled like Wenger's boys, United and Spurs. Aguero out will mitigate their attacking threat to "some" extent. Negredo is the business every time I've seen him play. Tough guy and hard nosed for an attacker. Knows how to spank a ball, intelligent striking abilities and can hold the ball up well even under pressure and bring his teammates into play. Pretty good at finding space in front of goal so that teammates can pick him out on a cross or corner. Good in the air.

I'm thinking too that BR will stick with Skrtel and Sakho for his central defenders since it's what has worked lately and he tends to stick with that. I still would like to see DAgger in for Skrts. Skrtel is going to have to be a bit more careful with wrapping his man up on corners or he's going to get nailed for a Pen. The announcers for Cardiff were very outspoken and incredulous with his technique and it will very likely get brought to the attention of Lee Mason. Mason is the guy that one site said had "penalty area fever" for his PK calls in 2012/2013 for incorrectly awarding penalties.

It will be interesting to see how Luis does against Kompany. He should have the beating of Demichelis. Hope Hendo stays dangerous with his assists and Coutinho ups his stellar creative play and maybe finds his shooting boots.

The boys in the center of the park will have to do a lot of running, intelligent off ball movement, and continue to press and tackle like Banshees. This will be a key to us making a game of it.

Would love a W, will settle for a draw, will be a tall order to avoid an L at City.

Vercingetora said...

I'm with Drew, I think the Chelsea match is more significant and indicative of where we are. A win here is gravy, a point entirely satisfactory, a loss ... meh.

That being said, I think City are a little suspect at the back. I'd expect a high scoring match.

Merry Christmas Nate and all. I'm a happy camper. We're top of the table and my wife gave me a Liverpool iphone case!

Biggestfandownunder said...

Merry Christmas Nate and thanks again for the preview.

Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas Nate, Pal. Best to you and family. Here's to us being top on New Years Day. If we take 1 or 2 points we'll probably be 5th. Meh.