By Christopher Boulay
Liverpool head to the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday to face Manchester City, and while it is only January, the fixture will have a significant effect on the race for the title and fourth place.
The Reds are coming off of a big win against Newcastle on Friday, which helped keep pace with Chelsea and Arsenal. However, despite Chelsea’s win over Wolves, Arsenal witnessed a surprising collapse against Fulham at Craven Cottage. This keeps the three clubs within three points of one another for the fourth spot in the table. Although there is still a good deal of goal differential separating Chelsea and Liverpool, a win against City could pile more pressure on the Reds’ Premier League rivals to stay one step ahead. Chelsea is currently fourth with 37 points, while Arsenal is in fifth with 36 points. Liverpool is just two points behind the Gunners with the game in hand.
Manchester City is attempting to rebound from a shock defeat to Sunderland over the weekend. Roberto Mancini’s side was without the exploits of do-gooder/troublemaker Mario Balotelli due to an ankle issue, but that may be healed, as he could be in the squad for the match against Liverpool.
City are currently level on points with Manchester United, with the Blue side of the city holding a plus-5 advantage in goal differential. City will likely have a pile of pressure to deal with against the Reds, especially only able to take down Liverpool once in the past 13 fixtures.
Luis Suarez returns from a one-match ban which was served during the win over Newcastle, and could still be up front for the next few games. The club has not yet determined its plans to appeal the guilty verdict from the FA over the incident with Patrice Evra.
In addition, Steven Gerrard may get his first start since recovering from his ankle ailment. The Liverpool captain scored against the Magpies, and could feature with the many issues in the center of the formation since the loss of Lucas Leiva. Maxi Rodriguez may get another chance to prove himself, as the Argentine international has been stellar for the Reds this season, despite only being played sparingly by manager Kenny Dalglish.
The back four has been superb, and doesn’t look likely to witness any changes. Since playing regularly together, the combination of Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel, Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique has only lost once. The group will have much to do, as the Citizens currently have a goal differential of plus-37.
The two clubs should be quite familiar with one another, and it will only get closer over the next couple of weeks. After the two drew 1-1 in late November, there will be three matches over the next month, as the two are paired in the semifinals of the League Cup. City will host the Reds again on January 11, while the Citizens head to Anfield for the second leg on January 25.
Manchester City v Liverpool
When: Tuesday, January 3, 2000 GMT / 1500 EST
Where: Etihad Stadium, Manchester
EPL: Manchester City 1st (45 points), Liverpool 6th (34 points)
Probable Manchester City Starting XI:
DEF: Kompany, Zabaleta, Lescott, Kolarov
MID: Johnson, Barry, Silva, de Jong, Toure
Subs from: Pantillimon, Richards, Savic, Clichy, Milner, Nasri, Balotelli, Dzeko
Probable Liverpool Starting XI:
DEF: Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Jose Enrique
MID: Kuyt, Gerrard, Henderson, Maxi
FW: Suarez, Bellamy
Subs from: Doni, Downing, Kelly, Carragher, Carroll, Coates, Aurélio, Wilson, Spearing, Flanagan, Adam
Interact: What’s your final score prediction? What’s your predicted starting eleven? Comment below.