Liverpool welcome Manchester City to Anfield at noon today for a titanic clash which would see the winners make a significant stride in their Premiership campaigns. A win for the Reds would move them into fifth place and above Southampton to truly confirm their recent return to form. Whilst City would increase pressure on leaders Chelsea.
Following Liverpool’s defeat to Besiktas in the week, an outcome which in my opinion was nowhere near the end of the world, a number of key players are set to return to the starting line up for today’s fixture. Mamadou Sakho, Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson all stayed on Merseyside to prepare for today’s game – although the latter with an ankle injury. I thoroughly agree with Brendan Rodgers’ assertion that the result on Thursday could well be a “…Blessing in disguise…”.
I remain a fan of Rodgers, even after he done his best to get the sack earlier in the season by concentrating perhaps a little too hard on the Champions League instead of what Bill Shankley called “Our bread and butter”. Totally correct. Without success in the League, there is no European competition so when things begin to look sticky in UEFA’s flagship competition, it’s best to go back to basics.
What has endeared me to the Liverpool boss this season is that he’s responded well to the challenges that have come his way. He learnt from his mistakes, sought and found solutions along the way. In fairness to him, others in the same predicament have not feared so well (step forward Roberto Martinez).
We’ll certainly see a return to the back three that’s done so well recently in Sakho, Martin Skrtel and Emre Can. Jordon Ibe and Alberto Moreno should secure the wing back positions. I don’t see a place for Lazar Markovic in the left side after he was so blatantly exposed by Ronnie Koeman’s Southampton side last week. Same goes for Dejan Lovren who on this seasons form ranks up with Torben Piechnik as one of Liverpool’s worst buys ever. An impressive start but after that, only drivel and dross. His penalty miss during the week was shocking and only served to underline him as the difference between an understrength Liverpool side and the best the Turkish side could offer.
Should Henderson be fit, then I’d expect him to start in midfield alongside Joe Allen and behind a front three of Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge and Coutinho. I’d like to see Mario Balotelli play some part given his recent upturn in fortunes. Despite my praise for Rodgers earlier, I still think he’s wrong to criticise the Italian’s work rate. Ultimately, you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear so the fact remains Liverpool should have brought better. For now, he’s here so the Northern Irishman should quit moaning and get on with it.
Liverpool fans can be confident for today’s game. If the team plays well, which they absolutely must today, then there’s a good chance they can get a result. Vincent Kompany is not looking his formidable self of late so hopefully the energy of Liverpool’s front three should trouble him. The key battle for me, will be between Henderson and Yaya Toure in midfield where the Ivory Coast international will be causing problems with his forward runs. Sakho and the rest of the defence will also have to be on their toes against the City attack. Lucas Leiva remains out after returning to Gremio, his former club in the week to step up his recovery regime. Let’s hope it’s only that!
I’m not making a prediction, save to say I’d obviously like to see a Liverpool win. Aggression is the key today. If the team plays as they can, then I don’t see any reason why we can’t be celebrating three points come 2pm this afternoon.
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