The victims of the Hillsborough tragedy will be remembered over the weekend by all teams in the Football league, commemorating the 25th anniversary of the disaster. All matches will kick off seven minutes later than usual, followed by a minute’s silence in memory of the victims. Liverpool also take part in what is their biggest game of the season so far with a huge clash at home to Man City, a game which could have huge implications on where the title ends up this season. Both teams have eyes on the coveted trophy but only one team can be named Premier League champions and a victory here will be one step closer for either team.
Liverpool are enjoying one of their finest seasons in the recent time, with expectations of a top four finish now replaced with a belief that the Red’s could manage the incredible feat of winning the title after finishing seventh the season before. Brendan Rodgers has installed his man management skills to fine affect with the players blooming with confidence and desire to win every match they play. This has worked excellently in the last few months with Liverpool now looking to win their tenth game in a row in the Premier League. Their last match proved a stern examination of their credentials away to a tricky West Ham side. Amongst some poor refereeing decisions, Liverpool were able to take their opportunities from the penalty spot and edged the contest 2-1. This has left the team on 72 points and in first place, with a victory likely to put them into pole position for a first title in 23 years.
Manchester City were amongst the favourites for the title at the start of the season and many will feel that this is still the case. Although they are four points behind Liverpool and two points behind Chelsea, they crucially have two games in hand and will be confident of making up the points in home matches against Sunderland and Aston Villa. A win at Anfield will boost their title bid even further and winning their remaining matches will guarantee that championship will be theirs. City quashed any fears of a possible hiccup in their match against Southampton. With the match being at 1-1 at one stage, City then turned up the heat before half-time, scoring two goals just before the break before running out 4-1 winners on the day. With City being in no other competitions, their only focus is on the Premier League and will want to capture their second title in three years.
The two teams met at the Etihad Stadium in December of last year and City managed to make home advantage count with a narrow 2-1 win against the Reds. Liverpool took an early lead via Coutinho but City hit back with goals from Kompany and Negredo before the break before holding on in the second half to go away with all three points. The match was an entertaining one which many fans will hope to see the same of this Sunday.
Daniel Agger missed the trip to West Ham last week with a knock to his knee but should be fit for the game against City. Rodgers may however stick with the pairing of Skrtel and Sakho who were excellent in dealing with Andy Carroll and co. Liverpool’s only other absentee is Jose Enrique who will miss the rest of the season with a long term knee injury. It will be interesting to see which team Rodgers will use with Liverpool likely to go with the 4-1-2-1-2 formation which has worked well in the last month or so opposed to their normal 4-3-3.
City have received a huge boost before the game with the news that Sergio Aguero is fit enough for the clash after recovering from a hamstring injury which has kept him out of the last five games. Whether the manager will start the Argentinean is another question, with Dzeko and Negredo also vying for starting berths. Pellegrini also confirmed that Yaya Toure has shook off a knock sustained in the win against Southampton and should be able to start. City’s only absentee from the game is defender Matija Nastasic who is out with a knee injury.
- Liverpool have won all four home meetings with fellow members of the top seven so far this season, scoring 14 and conceding just once.
- Man City have only won 1 of their previous 16 Barclays Premier League matches at Anfield (D5 L10), with that win coming back in May 2003.
- The only forward partnership in Premier League history to score more goals than Suarez & Sturridge have this season (49) is Peter Beardsley and Andy Cole for Newcastle in 1993-94 (55).
- This game will see the two players with the most goals from dead ball situations in the Premier League this season (free kicks and penalties) – Steven Gerrard (12) and Yaya Toure (10).
- This game also sees the meeting between the two highest scoring sides in the Premier League this season Liverpool (90) and Man City (84).
- Only three sides have scored more Premier League goals in a season than Liverpool have this season (90), including Man City in their title-winning campaign in 2011-12 (93).
With 29 goals and 11 assists under his belt this season, Luis Suarez is almost a shoe in to win Player of the Season this year. His crucial goals are partly why Liverpool top the table at the moment and will want to make an impact on this game to show that he can again perform when the pressure is on. His goals have come from a total of 134 shots with a chance conversion rate of 22%. This is averaged out to a goal every 87, so just over a goal every game, making him by far the Premier League’s top scorer, with team mate Sturridge in second with 20 goals. His 11 assists have come from 77 chances which he has created for the team, with 19 of those being clear cut opportunities. Suarez is on average involved in a goal every 63 minutes and has scored 56% of his 27 clear cut chances. Man City will hope to keep the Uruguayan quiet but many teams have set about this task this season and failed and with Anfield rocking, Suarez and his team mates will hope to put it all on the line for this crunch match.
Toure has been immense from centre midfield for Man City this season and has been the catalyst to many of City’s good performances. His 18 goals make him the highest scoring midfielder in the league and have been vital to City’s progress with some of them being match winning. Not only is Toure one of the Premier League’s top performers, but has been one of the most consistent players in the league since his arrival from Barcelona. Toure’s passing has been as impressive as ever with a 90% passing accuracy from a whopping 2170 passes. With his ability to break up play efficiently around the pitch, he has won back possession 51 times in defensive positions and 115 times in midfield at an average of once every 15 minutes. He has struck up a great relationship with partner Fernandinho in the centre of the City midfield and together have been a shield for City’s defence, which is why they only conceded 29 times this season. Even with the array of talent at City’s possession, crucial players like Toure need to produce on the day both offensively and defensively to stop players like Suarez and Sturridge taking advantage.
With so much on the line for both teams, who could see why both could into the game with a cautious mindset with the losers likely to face an uphill battle to savour their title chances. However, these two teams know only how to attack, with 174 goals scored between them. This sets the match up for a fascinating battle between two free flowing, entertaining sides who have only victory in their sights. I see it as a contest which should be end-to-end with both teams cancelling each other out in an enjoyable affair. A high scoring draw is how I’m this game finish.