Liverpool travel to the Etihad Stadium tomorrow evening for the second game in this season’s Premiership campaign. A win is vital for both sides, even at this stage of the season, in order to keep the early pace. A loss would by no means be the end of the world, but as we all know, anything can happen in the Premier League. With the likes of Chelsea and Tottenham so far unbeaten, and Arsenal scraping a draw against Everton, it’s vital that Brendan Rodgers’ men keep up.
In terms of selection, I think we’ll see Rodgers keep faith with last week’s front three of Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho. The latter of whom will be more suited to this opposition than the Southampton side that had him well and truly shackled last weekend. Clearly Coutinho didn’t have the best of games then but I believe he’ll have more time and space to work his magic this time round. In midfield, I’m hoping Jordan Henderson will be partnered by Joe Allen instead of Lucas “zero tackles won” Leiva. I’d like to see Emre Can given a chance also but it’s reasonable to assume that the Gaffer’s taking a long term view with the Germany U-21 International and thus, there’s no need to rush the lad.
By all accounts, Lazar Markovic has recovered from Injury and is now in contention for a start. Alas the same can’t be said for Adam Lallana who as expected remains a couple of weeks away at least. To think, this time last year there was only Iago Aspas and Luis Alberto to call there. In defence, the only change is likely to be a debut for Alberto Moreno in place of Glen Johnson who for me, is reaching the end of the line. However, given the magnitude of the game and the requirement for experience, it’s also feasible that Rodgers could move Johnson back to the right and the expense of young Javi Manquillo. As per usual now, Steven Gerrard captaining just ahead of the back four.
The Reds patently aren’t favourites for tomorrow’s game. However, if they can keep it tight at the back and get the upper hand in midfield then they can surely do themselves justice and get a result. Manuel Pellegrino, besides talking rubbish about Liverpool all week with his feeble attempt at mind games, will send his side out with their usual attacking fervour. This may well play into the hands of their visitors, who as we saw last season, are more than capable of playing counter-attacking football to clinical and devastating effect. For this, the rear guard has to be solid, and one would hope Dejan Lovren and Martin Skrtel can pick up where he left off last week against Southampton.
On another note, I have to express my excitement at the prospect of Mario Balotelli joining the club. Rodgers has pulled off arguably the signing of the season in bringing him in. I don’t think Liverpool will regret taking the “risk” on the player. At 24, Balotelli is at the age where a young man is about to become a man. He’s on the verge of a certain maturity and so the club’s timing has been perfect in this regard. Roll on next week for his debut.
First things first though, and for tomorrow, I wouldn’t say I’m overly confident. Not because I don’t think Liverpool are good enough, but because I think this match has come around just that bit too soon for them. That said, there’s no time like the present for a stern test of the side’s title credentials and what better test is one going to get than against the Champions?
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