24 August 2014

Liverpool at Manchester City 08.25.14

3pm ET, live in the US on NBC Sports

Last four head-to-head:
3-2 Liverpool (h) 04.13.14
1-2 City (a) 12.26.13
2-2 (a) 02.03.13
2-2 (h) 08.26.12

Last match:
Liverpool: 2-1 Southampton (h)
Manchester City: 2-0 Newcastle (a)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Sterling, Sturridge 1
Manchester City: Agüero, Silva 1

Referee: Michael Oliver

Guess at a line-up:
Manquillo Skrtel Lovren Johnson
Henderson Allen
Coutinho Sturridge Sterling

After one preseason match and 60 minutes against Southampton, I suspect Liverpool's experiment with the 4-2-3-1 is over, at least for the time being. Against the defending league champions, Liverpool will probably revert to the safer, more familiar 4-3-3, with either Allen or Can coming in for Lucas.

Unsurprisingly given Liverpool's new-found depth, there are a couple other options. Rodgers could start with the diamond that seemingly worked best against Southampton, when the game became more stretched, although – like against Southampton – that's probably something to be used if needed. Coutinho could drop into midfield with Markovic coming in on the flanks, but the Serbian will probably be used off the bench at best.

It's also seemingly too soon for Alberto Moreno, in training this week and in the squad, because he's new to both the team and league, and because of the strength of tomorrow's opposition. Then again, Rodgers threw the even-less-experienced Manquillo in the deep end against Dortmund then Southampton as soon as he was available. Lallana's also back in training, but probably won't be fit enough to appear for another week.

Meanwhile, Manchester City remain Manchester City. The defending league champions, arguably the strongest squad in the division, spending *just* £49m this summer to sign Fernando, Mangala, Willy Caballero, and Sagna. Money makes the world go 'round.

Will it be 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1 for City? Well, when City start with two strikers – as they did with Jovetic and Dzeko against Newcastle – ;it's both 4-4-2 and 4-2-3-1, with one of the strikers often dropping off. If it's the same XI as last week, it'll be Hart; Clichy, Kompany, Demichelis, Kolarov; Nasri, Fernando, Toure, Silva; Jovetic, Dzeko. However, Zabaleta should come back in for Clichy, finally available after returning late because of Argentina's progression to the World Cup final.

But I also wouldn't be surprised to see a more orthodox 4-2-3-1, an extra midfielder coming in for one of the strikers, whether it's winger in the form of Navas or Milner, or another central holder such as Fernandinho. And like Zabaleta, Agüero, who came off the bench to score the second at Newcastle, should be available to start, whether City start with one or two up front. Only new center-back Mangala and Alvaro Negredo – who scored City's winner in this fixture last season – are unavailable.

There's always pressure when playing Manchester City, but the hosts are the side expected to take all three points, just as they did in this fixture last season. Maybe I'm just typically pessimistic, but anything Liverpool may take tomorrow would be a bonus. If Liverpool lose or draw, it won't define the season; it didn't last December, it won't after two games in this one. But if Liverpool somehow win, it could definitely push the side on to greater heights.

Meta: Stupid weekday matches. There will almost certainly be no immediate match review as, at best, I'll be watching this at work on my phone. As happened last season, the match infographic on Tuesday will have a longer, more-like-a-match-review write-up. Thanks to Champions League participation this season, this is going to happen a lot more than I'd like.


stoneybatter said...

On meta: while I love reading the reviews after games, being back in the Champions League is more a fair tradeoff for the delay.

I really liked Coutinho playing centrally in front of Stevie last year (think against arsenal at anfield), but I'm not sure that wasn't just to fit SASAS in attack together. I guess the only way that'll work tomorrow is if Markovic starts. So your prediction is spot on. But damn if Coutinho couldn't notch a few assists threading balls in from deep to Sterling and Sturridge. Ah well, I'll leave it in BR's capable hands.

xlynwoodx said...

Raheem was onside!

Despite the loss last season I was more than impressed by how competitive Liverpool were in this match. Pretty sure people were saying we gave them the toughest match at home last season. I'll be happy with the same this year, no matter the result.