Monday night football sees Manchester City welcome Liverpool to the Emirates Stadium in a mouth-watering clash with both sides coming off hard fought wins over Southampton and Newcastle respectively. The head-to-head stats show we’re in for a close encounter with three draws and a win each in their last five meetings. The English Premier League went down to the wire last season, with both City and Liverpool in with a shot at the title heading into the final gameweeks, and they were arguably the most impressive sides last term.
To Win (90mins)
Manchester City 8/10
Manchester City began their Premier League title defence with a 2-0 victory over Newcastle at St. James’ Park last Sunday. Perhaps the most worrying aspect for teams hoping to outdo City is that the champions have continued from where they left off last season, while also leaving the clear impression that there is better to come. City were by no means perfect. The World Cup has taken its toll on their squad, with many of their players only returning to training ten days ago. They were therefore not involved from the start against Newcastle, but there were signs of the form that they showed toward the end of last season, when they secured their second league title in three years. Their passing was sharp and their movement fluid, with David Silva, City’s main creative architect, once again showing his class. Indeed, it was Silva who scored City’s first goal of the new season, finishing off a wonderfully worked move involving Yaya Toure and Edin Dzeko.
Manuel Pellegrini’s men know that they have what it takes to win the title once again, but with the 2014/15 campaign looking more open than ever, a victory over their title rivals is absolutely essential. Eliaquim Mangala is in contention to make his debut for the Sky Blues but it remains to be seen whether he comes straight into the side in such a high intensity match. The potential of a Mangala-Kompany (stopper-sweeper) pairing is exciting and intriguing, but the Frenchman needs time. Stevan Jovetic has endured a difficult time since he arrived from Fiorentina a year ago, but injuries aside, he’s been superb almost every time he’s played for City. This will be a big season for him. If he stays fit, he could add something very special to an already talented squad.
Sergio Aguero, who has yet to fully regain fitness after injuring his groin during the World Cup, looks set to lead City’s attack against Liverpool after coming off the bench and scoring an impressive solo goal against Newcastle on Sunday. Aguero took on Fabricio Coloccini and had his first effort blocked by Tim Krul before quickly getting back to his feet and tapping in the rebound. When the likes of Yaya Toure, Aguero, Dzeko and Silva do their stuff, City play football of a quality that no team in England can exceed. Pellegrini knows that as well as anyone. He also knows that his job is to ensure it is not dwelt upon but regularly enforced.
Daniel Sturridge scored a late winner for Liverpool as the Reds earned a tough three points against Southampton at Anfield last Sunday, after a lacklustre performance had seen the home side come under severe pressure in the second half. Raheem Sterling had opened the scoring in the first half, finishing expertly from a sublime Jordan Henderson pass, but Nathaniel Clyne scored a well-deserved equaliser for the Saints, before Sturridge popped up to inflict a harsh defeat on Ronald Koeman’s side. Brendan Rodgers will now look ahead to this weekend’s fixture as he comes up against the side who beat them to the league title by a mere two points last season. Dejan Lovren enjoyed a superb Premier League debut for the Reds, oozing class on the ball and bringing an air of calm to the defence that was lacking last season. The 25-year-old looks a terrific acquisition.
New signing Alberto Moreno may start immediately at the expense of Glen Johnson, who is no longer the complete full-back with the swagger to make things happen. With his defensive susceptibilities coming to the fore without his attacking contributions to make up for them, he looks increasingly shorn of confidence, and it shows in his play. Javier Manquillo enjoyed a solid first competitive game for the Reds, and is sure to grow in stature by the week. The 20-year-old was reliable defensively, but could have offered more going forward rather than turning back time and time again. Liverpool still need to recruit another striker to help replace the £75million departure of Luis Suarez – something Rodgers openly admits – but in Sturridge and Sterling, the Reds won’t be short of goals. Sterling’s pre-season form was impressive, prompting the Liverpool boss to compare some of the youngster’s touches to a certain Lionel Messi, and he produced a man-of-the-match display last weekend. And with Sturridge, too, looking deadly in front of goal, the Reds have got another SAS partnership. Suarez has gone, but Liverpool are still a huge threat going forward.
VERDICT: Manchester City 8/10
Manchester City are favourites at 8/10 while Liverpool are valued at 32/10. The Sky Blues are difficult to beat at home and it will take a special performance for the Reds to best them on their turf this term. Both teams play attacking football which can leave their defences isolated at times and both teams to score looks a certainty at 6/10. With that being said, Man City put in a solid performance against Newcastle last weekend and look an irresistible force. They beat The Reds 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium last season and should get the win here.