Monday 25th August – 20:00 – Etihad Stadium
In only the second week of the season, the Premier League fixture list has thrown up a corker of a game as Liverpool visit Manchester City – last year’s top two. Their battle for the title in 2013-14 was one of the most enthralling, dramatic and entertaining in history, and they now face off for the first time this campaign after both won their opening game last weekend. Brendan Rodgers’ side overcame a tough challenge from Southampton to win 2-1 at home, whilst City visited Newcastle United where goals from David Silva and Sergio Aguero gave them a 2-0 win. Last season, Manuel Pellegrini’s side were the most successful at home in the league on their way to the title, but Liverpool held the joint best away record in the top flight so Monday night’s game could be very close to call. Of course the big talking point about this game is the fact that former City striker Mario Balotelli is on the verge of completing a move to Liverpool and although he won’t be able to feature on the pitch, the Italian may well be at the ground to watch his ex-employers take on his new club in a fixture that produced two fantastic encounters in 2013-14.
The Key Battle: Martin Demichelis vs Daniel Sturridge
With Eliaquim Mangala still not fit enough to make his Manchester City debut, Martin Demichelis will again partner Vincent Kompany in the centre of defence for the hosts.
It is perhaps the Argentine’s last chance to prove to Manuel Pellegrini that he should be the first choice centre-back, even when Mangala is ready to play. It all depends on which side of Demichelis we see on Monday night.
In the first half of last season the 33 year old looked like he couldn’t cope with the physical demands of the Premier League, often getting beat by his man, but towards the end of 2013-14, he was a different player and stood firm in the City defence, even managing to get on the scoresheet a couple of times too.
Facing Daniel Sturridge is perhaps the best test he can be given to show his worth, with the Liverpool striker one of the best in the league.
He has the fifth best minutes-per-goal rate (136) in Premier League history out of players with a minimum 50 goals and is the division’s leading goalscorer in the calendar year of 2014 with 14 goals.
The most recent of those came last weekend against Southampton, and with Mario Balotelli’s arrival imminent, Sturridge too will want to show his manager just what he can up front by carrying on his hot streak.
- French defender Eliaquim Mangala isn’t fit enough yet to be involved following his £32 million move from Porto meaning Martin Demichelis will start next to Vincent Kompany.
- Fernando is again likely to be preferred to Fernandinho, whilst loanee Frank Lampard is also available and could make his debut.
- Strikers Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic look set to continue up front with Sergio Aguero not ready to play a full 90 minutes. Other forward Alvaro Negredo remains sidelined with a fractured metatarsal.
- The deal to bring Mario Balotelli back to the Premier League is almost complete but he will not be registered in time to feature on Monday.
- Liverpool could give Serbian midfielder Lazar Markovic his debut after he recovered from a hamstring injury, with defender Alberto Moreno also available to make his first start but the match comes too soon for fellow new boy Adam Lallana.
- Jose Enrique’s condition will be assessed, while Daniel Agger, Jon Flanagan and Oussama Assaidi remain sidelined.
Manchester City wins = 40 / Liverpool wins =81 /Draws = 41
Last Meeting: Liverpool 3-2 Manchester City
Liverpool took a huge step towards winning the Premier League title by beating Manchester City as Anfield marked the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. The Reds looked like sweeping City aside in a dazzling opening half as goals from Raheem Sterling and Martin Skrtel put Brendan Rodgers’s team in complete command. City, who lost Yaya Toure to injury early on, mounted a superb recovery though and David Silva pulled one back early in the second half before his cross was deflected in off Glen Johnson and Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet to draw them level five minutes later. A gripping spectacle was decided 12 minutes from time when City captain Vincent Kompany – an injury doubt before the game and clearly lacking some of his familiar authority – sliced a clearance straight to Philippe Coutinho, who shot low and unerringly past Joe Hart to put Liverpool in control of the title race – which they later of course lost to City.
Note: This was the last competitive meeting between the two sides. They met in pre-season when Liverpool won on penalties following a 2-2 draw in New York.
Stat of the Match
Manchester City have scored exactly two goals in each of their last four Premier League games against Liverpool.
Where can I watch it?
Sky Sports 1 are showing the game live from 7 pm on Monday, with the game itself kicking off an hour later.
My Prediction: Manchester City 2-1 Liverpool
Another close battle is sure to happen at the Etihad Stadium, but home support may be crucial just like it was in both games between the two sides last season. City look very good going forward with the likes of David Silva and Edin Dzeko, plus Sergio Aguero is likely to play a part and even from the bench he can be clinical. Liverpool still don’t look fully competent at the back, but thanks to their many attacking talents should also get on the scoresheet. They will take the lead through a Steven Gerrard penalty, but two goals from Edin Dzeko in the second half will turn the game around in the second half for the hosts.