Liverpool and Manchester City go again in Premier League play on Monday when the Reds travel to the Etihad to battle the Sky Blues. The two outfits played to a 2-2 draw at Yankee Stadium over the summer with the Reds winning on penalty kicks, but now spectators will see the two sides take each other on in a competitive match.
Brendan Rodgers’ side will be out to seek redemption against City, who beat them to the title despite the Reds’ late-season Anfield triumph via Philippe Coutinho’s sublime finish.
City earned a professional 2-0 victory over Newcastle United away, while Daniel Sturridge’s tap-in saw Liverpool edge Southampton on home soil.
City adopted a 4-4-2 system that allowed David Silva and Samir Nasri to roam through midfield and create chances for centre-forwards, Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic. City manager Manuel Pellegrini has been nursing his squad full of World Cup talent back to health, and will be wary of this leading into the match.
The Sky Blues’ boss said that Pablo Zabaleta, Bacary Sanga, Vincent Kompany, Martin Demichelis, and Fernandinho are “not 100% but ready” for Monday’s clash, courtesy of the the Manchester Evening News.
Star striker Sergio Aguero scored a last-gasp goal against the Magpies last week, and it appears that he’s not under an injury cloud and can be expected to start from the outset.
There will be one notable absence, with £32 million French signing and defender Eliaquim Mangala set to miss the clash because of a foot injury.
In midfield, Yaya Toure and Fernando are likely to anchor the squad, while David Silva and Samir Nasri will be the creative outlets inside the channels when the team has possession.
Liverpool may try and negate the attacking firepower of City by adopting a 4-2-3-1 formation. After a pre-season in the 4-3-3 and a 4-4-2 diamond, Liverpool broke free of expectations against Southampton by deploying a new system due to the departure of former talisman Luis Suarez.
Dejan Lovren and Martin Skrtel are expected to be the centre-back duo, but their remain serious questions about who starts in the fullback positions. £12 million acquisition Alberto Moreno from Sevilla could make his debut at left-back, meaning that Glen Johnson or Javier Manquillo would battle it out for the right-back position. However, if Rodgers does not elect Moreno, then Johnson is expected to line up on the left and Manquillo on the right.
The 4-2-3-1 may off the Reds a chance to control midfield, which is crucial when playing away to City. Steven Gerrard and Lucas Leiva were the crux of last weekend’s midfield, while Jordan Henderson, Coutinho, and Raheem Sterling played in advanced roles behind Sturridge. Unfortunately for the Reds, new capture Mario Balotelli’s deal could not be finalised quickly enough for him to be available for the clash against his former employers.
If the Reds adopt a similar setup, the pacey and direct attack they featured against City in their 3-2 victory at Anfield last April will not be on display. It would not be a surprise if Liverpool goes into a more defensive shell by dropping Henderson deeper in order to neutralize the creativity of Nasri and Silva. Emre Can may play alongside Gerrard after the club reportedly agreed to loan Lucas to Napoli for the season.
The affair at the Etihad could be a cagey one, as both teams attempt to make a statement to the heavyweights of the Premier League competition.