It’s only the second round of fixtures and we are already being treated to the first big head to head of the season with the top two from last season, Man City and Liverpool, going toe to toe on Monday night at the Etihad. Both teams enjoyed wins on the opening weekend of the season, with City winning away at Newcastle and Liverpool at home to Southampton.
This could see one of these teams landing the first blow in the fight for the title but with it being so early on in the season, it will give the winner a mental edge more than anything going into big clashes later in the campaign.
After sealing their second title in three years last season, Man City started the season off in solid fashion by disposing a relatively resilient Newcastle side 2-0 without really having to move past second gear. This was with the likes of Aguero and Fernandinho coming off the bench and without players such as Zabaleta, Mangala, Jesus Navas and surprise signing Frank Lampard. According to manager Manuel Pellegrini, Man City should aim to win every competition they are involved in this season. That seems a tough ask but retaining their title as well as a good run in the Champions League would be seen as a successful campaign. City will look to stamp their authority against one of their rivals on Monday and show the rest of the teams that they are not letting go of their title without a fight.
Liverpool stuttered to victory against a Southampton side who definitely deserved a point if not more last week. The 2-1 win was a sign of changed times at Anfield. In previous seasons, this would’ve been a game in which they would’ve dropped points. Having played poorly and still come out with the win shows they can still pick up valuable points even when they aren’t at their best, a sign of potentials champions. It is a bit early to be looking at that aspect but having come so close last season, Liverpool will hope to again challenge for the title and show that it wasn’t just a one season wonder. Brendan Rodgers has shown major intent in this transfer window and is likely to hit the £120 million barrier with the sensational signing of former City striker Mario Balotelli, who unfortunately won’t be able to feature against City if he does put pen to paper. Even with the sale of Luis Suarez, the Reds look a stronger outfit as a whole and will be heading the Etihad in confidence that they can come back with a positive result.
You can back Manchester City to win the game at 17/20 with Betway, while Liverpool have been priced up at 13/4 and the draw is at 13/5.
Sergio Aguero is 4/1 to score first, while Liverpool’s leading man Daniel Sturridge is at 6/1.
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The only player missing from City’s squad is Spanish striker Alvaro Negredo who fractured his metatarsal and is likely to be out until the end of September.
Pellegrini is unlikely to make too many alterations to the team that beat Newcastle but may opt to start striker Sergio Aguero after he came on to score in their previous match. Fernando is again likely to be preferred to Fernandinho and Martin Demichelis will continue to partner Vincent Kompany in the heart of defence until new signing Mangala reaches match fitness.
The Reds have a few players on the injury list including defenders Daniel Agger and Jon Flanagan, who are both suffering from knee injuries. Adam Lallana had recovered from his knee injury but needs match fitness so this game will have come too soon for the former Southampton man. New signing Lazar Markovic is included in the match squad however, after recovering from a hamstring problem.
Either Joe Allen or Emre Can could come into replace Lucas in midfield whilst Johnson and Manquillo are likely to continue in the full-back positions with Alberto Moreno likely to be on the bench for his first game.
Apr 2013/2014 Liverpool 3 – 2 Man. City
Dec 2013/2014 Man. City 2 – 1 Liverpool
Feb 2012/2013 Man. City 2 – 2 Liverpool
Aug 2012/2013 Liverpool 2 – 2 Man. City
Jan 2011/2012 Man. City 3 – 0 Liverpool
Nov 2011/2012 Liverpool 1 – 1 Man. City
Edin Dzeko showed against Newcastle last Sunday that goals are not the only thing he adds to the Man City team, but can hold up the ball to bring his teammates into play in the danger areas. This was summed up by his amazing back heel assist for David Silva’s goal and the man-of-the-match award for his performance against Newcastle. Having only made one assist last season, he has already equalled that after one game and will not want to stop there, giving options to the midfielders who burst into the box on a regular basis. With 16 goals last season, the Bosnian international was definitely the main striker for City towards the end of last season, with the likes of Aguero and Jovetic suffering from injuries. He is likely to continue as one of the first names on the team sheet and with a shot accuracy of 46% from 83 shots last season, topped with a conversion rate of 19%, he will to aim for the 20 goal mark for the season. Despite the fact that Dzeko has a target man like stature, he has shown that he is very good with his feet, but in the big games against the top six teams, he may have to use his height and aerial abilities to his advantage, having won 45% of his aerial duels last season. Liverpool will not want to let this man have many chances at goal or else it could prove very costly for them especially with his abilities.
19-year-old Raheem Sterling has taken the Premier League by storm since he found a regular place in Liverpool’s first team at the start of the year. The Englishman has shown that he is well capable of taking on players and getting past them with his pace and trickery on the ball, taking on a total of 143 players and successfully winning 64% of those battles. Not only can Sterling take on players but he also has shown that he is a very creative player who can provide chances for his teammates on a regular basis, creating 51 chances in total last season with five assists. He continued where he left off with another man-of-the-match display in which he bagged the assist for the Sturridge’s winner against Southampton in the opening game. The former QPR youngster also scored the first goal when an inch perfect through ball from Jordan Henderson found Sterling in space and he had no problem with finishing into the bottom corner with composure. This is just one of the examples showing that he has really improved his finishing since getting his breakthrough, including the fantastic finish against Man City in Liverpool’s 3-2 win in their last meeting. The versatile midfielder has also shown that he is capable of playing in many different positions, including playing as a winger, at the tip of the diamond and as a second striker, so Man City will definitely need to keep an eye out for him.
In the two encounters last year, both teams were completive on each occasion with Liverpool playing well at the Etihad only to lose but did win a tight but exhilarating contest at Anfield early on this year.
I think it will be a similar story here with both teams fresh and most first team players available to start for either team. I do see it being a tight affair and a draw with plenty of goals is my best bet for the Monday evening game.
My Prediction: Man City 2-2 Liverpool
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