By Christopher Boulay
Liverpool hosts Manchester City in the home opener of the Premier League season. While the club slumped to a disappointing 3-0 defeat at The Hawthorns last weekend, the squad helped improve overall morale by taking the advantage over Heart of Midlothian in the first leg of the Europa League play-off on Thursday.
However, welcoming the defending league champions will be no easy task, even for an improved Liverpool side.
The Reds recently completed the signing of midfielder Nuri Sahin on loan from Real Madrid. While he won’t be eligible for the squad against City, this could put more fans at ease about the bolstering of the lineup. This is manager Brendan Rodgers’ third signing of the summer, after he locked up permanent moves for both Fabio Borini and Oussama Assaidi earlier in the summer.
Assaidi is in contention to make his debut for City, and could fill-out the front three with Borini and Luis Suarez. If Liverpool is to improve on its lack of goals in the previous league match, it will have to come from some creativity – and a little luck – from these front three.
There is no question about City’s attacking depth, but it did take a significant hit last weekend in the win v Southampton. Sergio Aguero went down with a what was a thought to be a serious knee injury, but will only keep him out a few weeks. However, this could complicate matters for manager Roberto Mancini, as he will need to use Mario Balotelli or Edin Dzeko to fill the huge hole that Aguero leaves.
Liverpool’s back line will be without Daniel Agger, who must serve a one-match suspension for his red card against West Brom last weekend. Rodgers may need to call on Sebastian Coates to fill the role in the middle. If not Coates, look for Jamie Carragher to play, despite his difficult outing against Hearts.
The Reds also will likely miss Joe Cole, who is out with a hamstring injury. Both Andy Carroll and Jose Enrique may have to pass late fitness tests to be in contention for the squad.
City will be without Adam Johnson, as he was sold to Sunderland earlier this week. However, City preemptively purchased Jack Rodwell to add depth to the wings, and the former Evertonian started in the club’s first match. Injuries have also been a problem for the side, as both Micah Richards and Gareth Barry currently have knocks that will keep them out until September.
The first part of Liverpool’s season doesn’t look as if it will be easy, but the club typically does well against championship contenders, which may give fans feeling that a result or better can be achieved.
Liverpool v Manchester City
When: Sunday, August 25, 1100 EST/1600 GMT
Where: Anfield, Liverpool
Previous Premier League match: West Bromwich Albion 3-0 Liverpool, Manchester City 3-2 Southampton
League Position 2011-12: Liverpool 20th (0 points), Manchester City sixth (3 points)
Projected Manchester City Starting 11
DEF: Kompany, Lescott, Clichy Zabaleta
MID: Rodwell, Toure, Silva, Nasri
FW: Tevez, Balotelli
Subs from: Pantilimon, Boyata, Savic, de Jong, Santa Cruz, Milner, Kolarov, Dzeko, Guidetti
Projected Liverpool Starting 11
DEF: Johnson, Coates, Skrtel, Enrique
MID: Gerrard, Lucas, Allen
FW: Assaidi, Suarez, Borini
Subs from: Jones, Kelly, Flanagan, Carragher, Robinson, Spearing, Allen, Adam, Henderson, Sterling, Cole, Downing, Carroll
Interact: What’s your projected lineup and final score prediction? Comment below.