Sunday’s midday kickoff sees Liverpool host title chasers Manchester City in what fans hope will be a repeat of last season’s exhilarating encounter.
As Anfield marked the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster last season, both teams came into this game seeking vital points in the title race. First half goals from Raheem Sterling and Martin Skrtel put Brendan Rodgers’ team in complete command as the Reds looked to sweep City aside with last season’s sparkling attacking football.
However, City recovered in the second half, with David Silva stunning Liverpool with 5 minutes of masterful play, pulling one back early in the second half before getting a cross deflected in off Glen Johnson to get a second and draw the Blues level.
The game was bookended by two big events; City losing lost Yaya Toure to injury before 20 minutes had elapsed and the game was decided 12 minutes from time when club captain Vincent Kompany sliced a clearance straight to Philippe Coutinho, who shot past Joe Hart to deliver the three points and put Liverpool back on top of the league table, two points ahead of Chelsea and seven ahead of City (although the Blues had two games in hand).
To see what fans of both Clubs may be thinking about the fixture this season, we looked at the Beat Your Manager! Fantasy Football data from this game last season, to see what players were picked for the lineups last year.
Beat Your Manager! Fantasy Football is a game similar to “Football Manager”, but applied to live football, where you manage your favourite Club and pick lineups, bench, formations and substitutions, all in real-time. When fans play the game, the Beat Your Manager team can measure the popularity of different players, by looking at how frequently they are selected for the starting lineup, substitutes bench or not selected at all.
The app ran for the 2013/4 EPL season and is currently inactive while the developers are creating the revised version – we’ll keep you posted on when it’s going to re-launch.
Formation: An attacking 4-3-3 for LFC fans but a solid 4-4-2 for City
Liverpool fans scented blood and went for an all-out 4-3-3 (36 per cent) with their more usual 4-4-2 formation second choice, selected by 27 per cent of Reds.
Almost half (49 per cent) of City fans opted for a solid 4-4-2 formation for this game, with the next-most popular formation an attacking 4-3-3, selected by 24 per cent of Blues.
Goalkeeper: Both goalkeepers pretty similar in popularity with their respective fans
Simon Mignolet was the goalkeeper of choice for four-fifths (80%) of Liverpool fans, increasing slightly in popularity (up from 2nd-from-bottom in last match to 4th-lowest player ranked for this game). Joe Hart similarly got a boost in numbers, with 87 per cent of City fans giving him the nod for this game, making him the club’s 5th most popular player for this match.
Both real-life Managers agreed with fans, going for the identical options between the posts.
Defence: Only one switch between LFC fans and Manager
Liverpool topped the popularity charts in defence, taking three of the top-four most popular spots.
With José Enrique out injured, LFC fans had two clear choices in defence, with Glen Johnson Liverpool’s most popular defender for this game, on a 96 per cent rating, closely followed by goalscorer Skrtel (95 per cent), making them the club’s 5th and 6th most popular players (respectively) for this match.
After Skrtel, Daniel Agger was the next most popular LFC defender, on 77 per cent, with Jon Flanagan (68 per cent) just taking the final position in the back four with fans.
Only Pablo Zabaleta could challenge Liverpool’s top three defenders for popularity, his 89 per cent rating making him the club’s most popular defender (and 4th-most popular player) for this match. After Zabaleta, the remaining members of City’s back four were rated pretty closely by fans, with Martín Demichelis (73 per cent), Gaël Clichy (70 per cent) and Vincent Kompany (66 per cent) all making the cut.
City boss Manuel Pellegrini agreed with the fans on all four defenders, while Rodgers made a single switch, fielding Mamadou Sakho (39 per cent fan rating) instead of fan-pick Agger.
Midfield: Perfect harmony between fans and Managers
By contrast, Man City topped the midfield charts, taking three of the top-five most popular spots.
Silva was City’s most popular midfielder and the 2nd most popular player on the pitch, with a 99 per cent score, closely followed by Yaya Touré (97 per cent) and Samir Nasri (96 per cent), with Fernandinho lagging way behind, but still making the lineup cut, on an average 50 per cent rating from Blues fans.
Liverpool fans had two clear favourites in midfield, with club captain Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson sharing the spoils, their identical 98 per cent ratings making them jointly the club’s most popular midfielders. Philippe Coutinho (89 per cent) was a close third, with Sterling taking the fourth spot on a very respectable 66 per cent from LFC fans.
Both managers went for the same midfield chosen by the fans; with Sterling and Coutinho each scoring for the hosts and Silva rewarding both fans and Manager with two second-half goals.
Forwards: Liverpool dominate the forward line
No surprises for guessing the most popular player on the pitch, Luis Suarez getting a perfect 100 per cent rating from Reds fans. Daniel Sturridge was close behind on 98 per cent, making him jointly (with Gerrard and Henderson) Liverpool’s 2nd most popular player.
City’s most-popular forwards were way behind Liverpool’s front two in the popularity stakes, Edin Dzeko’s 79 per cent score putting him just ahead of Sergio Agüero (76 per cent) for this game.
SAS was the natural choice for Rodgers upfront for this game, while Pellegrini opted to field Jesús Navas (33 per cent fan rating) instead of fan-pick Agüero, although he did bring on the Argentine for Dzeko halfway through the second half.
However, despite some sparkling individual displays, it wasn’t a good day for the Blues, an outstanding performance by Liverpool giving their title challenge fresh impetus going into the closing weeks.
Fan-selected lineup, bench, not selected ratings for Liverpool vs. Man City 2013-14 EPL Season: