Liverpool vs Manchester City | Sunday 01 March | Anfield | 14:00
Manuel Pellegrini's Manchester City lock horns with the side that ran them closest in last year's Premier League, who look a rejuvenated force after a somewhat inconsistent start to the season. The Sky Blues closed the gap on Chelsea to just five points after thumping Newcastle 5-0 while Jose Mourinho’s men were held by Burnley. Liverpool sent out a warning sign to their top four rivals as they overcame a tough Southampton side and remain the only unbeaten Premier League team in 2015.
To Win Match
Manchester City 29/20
Liverpool are in excellent form – they are unbeaten in their last ten league matches with seven wins and three draws including four successive victories in all competitions. The Reds haven’t lost at home since their 2-1 defeat to Chelsea last November and have won their last three encounters at Anfield. Liverpool have inflicted damage on direct rivals in pursuit of European qualification and their 2-0 victory at Southampton’s expense is reinforcing the sense that momentum is increasing with the Merseyside club. Brendan Rodgers has found a way to get his best footballers on the field at once, and not shoehorn them into the rigidity of a 4-3-3 or 4-4-2 formation. The Reds now have runners from all over the park and are playing slick, interchanging football as they did last season. They look far more comfortable in their shape than Louis Van Gaal's United, who set up the same.
There is a patience to their play, too, which adds a different dimension to last season. Philippe Coutinho is the cream of the Kop and the catalyst in most of Liverpool’s attacking play with his ability to run through opponents in midfield which creates ample chances for his side. The Brazilian playmaker picked up the ball 30-yards out, took one touch to steady himself and curled home a powerful shot off the underside of the bar to stun St Mary’s last weekend. Coutinho’s flourishing partnership and understanding with Raheem Sterling and Jordon Ibe is tormenting defences with the pace and understanding between the trio. The return of Daniel Sturridge allows Liverpool to stretch the game as they did last season and bring out the best in Coutinho by creating space for him. Sturridge’s pace, skill and ability to hold up the ball are essential to the way Rodgers wants his side to play. He is always on the shoulder of defenders, has a wicked left foot and will be looking to find the back of the net against his former club.
It was high fives all round at the Etihad Stadium as the reigning champions enjoyed a gainful evening in the Premier League with a 5-0 trouncing of Newcastle United, a showing that was as beautiful as it was emphatic. Now just five points behind Chelsea, City have an opportunity to cut the gap to just two points given Chelsea are inactive due to their participation in the Capital One Cup Final this weekend. The Sky Blues look to have overturned their bad run of form with back-to-back wins against Stoke and Newcastle. Five points behind they may be, but this City squad will overwhelmingly believe they possess what it takes not only to claw back the deficit but go on to win the Premier League title itself.
They also have a very good record on the road having won eight of their thirteen matches played with four draws and just one defeat, which came against West Ham. City won the reverse fixture 3-1 and will be hoping to pull the double over the Reds for the first time since 1937. The Sky Blues haven’t won at Anfield in their last eleven encounters with the Reds winning on six occasions. City will be hoping to defy history this time. Pellegrini has remained steadfast in expressing his confidence in his City side despite their skittish form in recent times and he will be pleased that there are signs that confidence levels appear to be returning. Samir Nasri offers a threat in the final third as he has the ability to score goals and create opportunities for his team-mates. He could cause Liverpool’s defence plenty of problems this weekend as he drifts between the lines, which may cause the opposition to leave space unattended. Sergio Aguero remains City’s focal point in attack and the Argentinean will be looking to extend his tally of seventeen goals scored this season against the Reds.
VERDICT: Draw 24/10
Victory is essential for both sides with City challenging for the league and Liverpool vying for a top four finish. We should see an open game and given the attacking talent on show, Both Teams to Score looks a certainty at 6/10. With that being said, City do not have a good record at Anfield and their intense midweek fixture with Barcelona will take a lot from them. The last three meetings between these sides have ended in draws. I’m going for another draw at 5/2.