Manchester City vs Liverpool | Thursday 26 December | Etihad Stadium | 19:30
The biggest match of the traditional Boxing Day fixtures sees two of the top sides in the Premier League this season go head-to-head. Liverpool, together with Arsenal, lead Manchester City at the top of the table by one point ahead of their trip to Etihad Stadium. Liverpool topping the table at Christmas is the first time they have done so since 2009, when they went on to finish second. The last time the Reds were top at Christmas and won the league was in the 1987-88 season.
To Win (90mins)
Manchester City 8/10
A patchy performance against Fulham, that underlined their problems away from home this season, leaves Manchester City third on the table. Another Yaya Toure free kick after 23 minutes and Kompany's goal at the right end of the field put City 2-0 up at second from bottom Fulham. The home team equalised after the interval with a goal from Kieran Richardson and when Kompany sent an attempted clearance spiralling into his own net. Jesus Navas restored City's lead in the 78th minute and poor defending allowed James Milner to make it 4-2. City and England goalkeeper Joe Hart made his first league start since October 27, having been dropped in favour of Romania's Costel Pantilimon, who was on the bench this time following last weekend's 6-3 win over Arsenal. Manuel Pellegrini has stated that Hart will play in this crunch clash after he made his first Premier League appearance for almost two months and was not at fault for either Fulham goal. Manchester City are currently without first choice right-back Pablo Zabaleta and second choice right-back Micah Richards, both battling injury. Gael Clichy had to plug the dike at right-back. However, it didn’t really work as Fulham clearly targeted him all afternoon, and their persistence paid off in the 50th minute when Adel Taarabt blew past Clichy and the heavy-footed Martin Demichelis down the left flank, shortly thereafter teeing up Kieran Richardson's goal. Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers and striker Luis Suarez would have noted that and will be hoping the left-back again starts on the right side of the defence.
Suarez celebrated his new contract by sending Liverpool to the top of the Premier League thanks to two goals and another virtuoso display in a 3-1 home win over crisis club Cardiff City on Saturday. The irrepressible Suarez, who looked to be heading out of Anfield in the close season following a ban for biting an opponent, expertly volleyed in the opener before setting up Raheem Sterling for the second after a superb ball from the resurgent Jordan Henderson. It was soon 3-0 as the 26-year-old Suarez netted his 19th league goal of the season on the stroke of halftime with a superb curling shot from the edge of the box following more Henderson magic with a back-heel. Liverpool hammered Tottenham Hotspur 5-0 away last weekend and could have had more against Cardiff, with Suarez almost completing a hat-trick when he clipped the post. A midfield trio of Lucas, Henderson and Joe Allen, Rodgers’ preferred midfield line-up in the injury absence of Steven Gerrard, has actually allowed the team to interchange more dynamically and exert even more pressure on their opponents, which has taken the level of Liverpool’s play to a whole new level.
VERDICT: Draw 27/10
Both Premier League meetings between these sides were drawn 2-2 last season. This season’s encounter is also expected to be close. However, one bet looks to be a certainty, with Both Teams to Score available at 9/20. City and Liverpool are the highest scorers in the league with 51 and 42 goals respectively. The third highest scorers are Arsenal, who have scored 33 goals, nine less than Liverpool. Manchester City have been excellent at home, winning all eight matches and scoring a massive 35 goals, while Liverpool have been inconsistent on the road losing twice in their eight travels, winning three. However, they are in red hot form and will be looking to upset City’s 100% record at the Etihad. An end-to-end match is expected and Liverpool are predicted to put up a fight which could most likely end the match in a score draw.