Although the game won’t be decisive with more crucial fixtures on the horizon, the clash between Liverpool and Man City at Anfield for many will be a straight shoot out for the title. In 2011/2012 season, Man City beat Man Utd in similar circumstances which allowed them to go on to clinch the title, just, on goal difference. The result of the match, by no means, will guarantee the Championship to either team but a win will go a long way in terms of momentum and confidence as well as the belief to go and seal English football’s most coveted prize.
Man City started the season as favourites and have been impressive this season with their strength in depth playing a key part when the likes of Kompany, Aguero and Nasri have been out of action. City’s shaky away form in the early part of the season emitted signs of weakness in their back line. However, they have tightened up defensively and have been scoring goals at will, especially at the Etihad. Having already won the Capital One cup earlier in the season, Pellegrini and his men are now only four points behind Liverpool in the league with two games in hand, after coming through fixtures against Man Utd, Arsenal and Southampton unbeaten.
Liverpool on the other hand have exceeded all expectations in a season in which Brendan Rodgers has implemented his brand of free flowing counter attacking football to devastating effect. What Steven Gerrard and co lack in squad depth is made up for in confidence and the willingness to put in 100% in every match. Players such as Flanagan, Henderson and Sterling have matured excellently under the man management skills of Rodgers and it has enabled them to become more adventurous on the field, with the team as a whole benefiting greatly. Having now gone on a nine game winning streak, Liverpool sit top of the pile which is unknown territory at this stage of the season so handling the pressure will be a major factor in the coming weeks.
In terms of previous title winning experience, Man City have picked up the Premier League trophy whilst Liverpool are yet taste league success. City won the championship in the 2011/2012 season, but needed two goals in injury time of the last game of the season to seal it. Saying that, it means that City do not have a wealth of experience to take it all the way like Man Utd and Chelsea have done in the past. The closest Liverpool have come to the title was in the 2008/2009 season in which they came second behind Man Utd with a mere four point gap.
Building up to the game, let us look at each teams statistics as well as the players that are likely to shine on the day.
Manchester City have only conceded 29 goals so far from their 31 games played, giving them a goals conceded per game figure of only 0.88. A success rate of 76.97% from a total of 612 tackles and well as 419 interceptions shows that even with an ever changing defence, City still have the quality at the back to stop teams in their tracks, with 13 clean sheets so far.
Liverpool have been less impressive in defence however, with 40 goals conceded from their 33 games. Rodgers has tinkered with his defence at times and injuries to various defenders have meant that only Martin Skrtel has been a regular in the Reds back line. Individual errors have led to a significant amount of those goals, indicated by 34 defensive errors over the course of the season so far.
Both teams have been free flowing in terms of their attacking and goal scoring this season, with both teams astonishingly averaging around three goals a game. Liverpool have had their strike duo of Suarez and Sturridge to thank for their goal tally with 49 goals between them already this season. With Gerrard on penalty duties, he has also weighed in with a crucial 13 goals. With the likes of Coutinho, Sterling and Henderson providing the assists, Liverpool’s firepower will hope to be have an impact in Sunday’s encounter.
City have also been firing on all cylinders this season, with 84 goals with their 31 games so far. The strike force of Aguero, Negredo and Dzeko have weighed in with an impressive 35 goals between them this season while Nasri, Silva and Navas have notched up 15 goals collectively from midfield positions. With Aguero having missed much of the season, City’s tally could have been much higher which is a staggering thought and shows how much depth City have as a squad.
Suarez vs. Kompany
Suarez has been nothing short of breathtaking with his unpredictable nature and dazzling skills reaping rewards. Having missed the first five games of the season, Suarez has still managed to notch up 29 goals, from only 28 games. With a goal every 87 minutes, Suarez has not only been effective the goals department but has created numerous chances for his team mates, 77 to be exact. With 19 clear cut chances created, Suarez has 11 assists under his belt so far, with a chance created every 33 minutes. With a shooting accuracy of 54% from 134 shots, Suarez’s chance conversion rate is at a respectable 22%, with his clear-cut chance conversion rate at 56%. Kompany and co will have one eye on Suarez and his partner Sturridge when they clash on Sunday and will want them to have as little impact on the game as possible.
Vincent Kompany has been Man City’s captain and main central defender for a number of years now and has again had an impressive season although injuries have limited him to only 21 games so far. Surprisingly, City have conceded over a goal a game with Kompany in the team but his commitment, leadership and drive on field cannot be quantified. With a tackle success rate of 69.57%, Kompany has 44 interceptions to his name and passing success rate of 87.21%. The Belgian international has only been dispossessed eight times this season and has won back possession, on average, once every 16 minutes. Kompany has netted three crucial goals this season and will look to stifle the Liverpool attack in its tracks.
Gerrard vs. Toure
The Liverpool captain has yet again led from the front and has been crucial to Liverpool’s title push this season. With 13 goals, 11 of which were from the penalty spot, and nine assists, Gerrard has again shown his influential qualities on the field. The England captain has played in a deeper role this season compared to previously which has allowed him to dictate the play more in the centre. Having created 57 chances with seven of them being clear cut, Gerrard averages a chance every 43 with a pass completion rate of 81.69%. Under pressure situations, we have seen Gerrard step up at crucial times this season to help seal wins for Liverpool against the likes of Fulham, Man Utd and more recently West Ham on the weekend. With Henderson and Sterling likely to do the running in midfield for Liverpool on Sunday, Gerrard will hope to control the game with his passing range to help his team.
Toure has by far been Man City’s best performer this season and has shown how vital he is to City with his goals, assists, work rate and ability to move from box to box efficiently. Toure has had his best goals return this season with 18 to his name, with one every 144 minutes. With 5 assists, Toure has created 32 chances with seven of them being clear cut. The Ivorian international has worked up a great partnership with summer acquisition Fernandinho and their ability to break up play in the midfield has helped City grind out attacks in many games. The two central midfielders will hope to be on top form on the weekend and when they are, they normally come out victorious.
Skrtel vs. Aguero
Regular injuries to Agger and Sakho has meant that Skrtel has been Liverpool’s main central defender for much of the season and although the Slovakian has had his troublesome moments, he the force in some outstanding performances from the team. He has helped his team to eight clean sheets but Liverpool concede 1.29 goals a game with Skrtel in the team. Nevertheless, Skrtel’s aggressive nature gives him an aerial duel win rate of 70%, a ground duel win rate of 61% and a tackle success rate of 76.92%. Martin is renowned for his clearances and has made a whopping 357 this season, with 199 being with his head. Skrtel has been fantastic is the big games this season, with a man of the match performance in his first game of the season against Man Utd, as well as goals against Arsenal and Chelsea. With six goals altogether, Skrtel will hope to at least have an impact defensively, if not in an attacking sense.
Aguero has had a troublesome season with only 15 starts and two substitute appearances to his name. Pellegrini has stated that Aguero should be available to play some part in the game against Liverpool and with 15 goals to his name, you can understand why City are desperate for him to play some part. He averages a goal every 80 minutes, with a shooting accuracy rate of 60% and chance conversion rate of 26%. The Argentinean has five assists to his name from the 28 chances he has created and along with Suarez is one of the best strikers in the league. His pace and quick feet is likely to cause problems for Liverpool’s back line and scored against the Reds last season, something he will want to repeat this time around if he is picked.
With the way the season has panned out, there is still a big chance that these two teams will drop points in other games, with Liverpool still to play Chelsea and City having to travel to Goodison Park to face in form Everton. In that respect, the winner of this match isn’t guaranteed the title by any means, and I feel that both teams won’t be disappointed with a draw, but dare not lose. With the goal scoring form of both teams however, it is set to be a belter of a contest.