This Sunday Anfield plays host to the 2013-2014 Champions and runners-up with the situation completely morphed since the two sides last met at Anfield. That game, thought to be so crucial as Liverpool stormed towards a potential 19th title, started with Liverpool in the second spot that Manchester City hold now (taking games in hand as 3pts), however, the Reds have suffered a somewhat laboured campaign and sit sixth despite an upturn in form. City, on the end of a 2-1 home defeat to Barcelona in midweek, are once again in the hunt as they look to break down another Chelsea points buffer, and as such they can ill afford another slip-up, even away from home. This could be a mouth watering occasion full of both class and emotion.
Brendan Rodgers’ young starlets traveled to Turkey without a number of first team squad players but most of them should be back for the visit of City. Glen Johnson (illness), Jordan Henderson (hamstring), Mamadou Sakho (thigh) and Steven Gerrard (hamstring) could all be back by the 1st March clash. Gerrard is the least likely to return whilst Sakho is back in training.
Jose Enrique (knee), Brad Jones (thigh) and Jon Flanagan (knee) are all missing for the foreseeable future whilst midfield lynch-pin Lucas Leiva remains sidelined until mid-March.
Philippe Coutinho will be ready and willing after his midweek rest. Less can be said of Emre Can who played the full 120 minutes against Besiktas even after cramping up his calf in the second half.
Manuel Pellegrini may be the most fortunate manager in the Premier League as his squad has no injury worries to speak of. Even Sergio Aguero is fit and firing.
- Liverpool have won just two of their last twelve Premier League games against Man City (W2, D6, L4).
- Manchester City have scored two or more goals in each of their last six Premier League games against Liverpool.
- When the Citizens beat Liverpool back in August, Stefan Jovetic (2) and Aguero (1) scored City’s goals with three of the Blues four shots on target.
- City have won none of their last eleven league games at Anfield (W0, D4, L7).
- Liverpool are unbeaten in their last ten Premier League outings and hold the best form over that period (W7, D3).
- Arsenal are the only team to prevent City from scoring in their last 23 Premier League games.
- City are yet to concede from outside the penalty area in the league this season.
- Liverpool have had 14 different scorers in the Premier League this season – the joint most alongside Arsenal.
Coutinho has probably been Liverpool’s best player in a very up and down season for the Reds. The little Brazilian has used his twinkly toes and deadeye vision to carry Liverpool into what is now a decent position to challenge for the top four. The season didn’t start too brightly for the Brazil international but his form since the switch to 343 has been mesmerising with nothing but recent fatigue stopping his momentum.
Rodgers will be praying that Coutinho’s midweek rest pays off after the Reds crashed out of the Europa League on penalties to Slavan Bilic’s Besiktas. The Northern Irish manager will also be praying Coutinho’s form is reignited by his small holiday with Liverpool solely reliant on the little magician to be their creative spark. It’s easy to see why the Brazilian is so loved on Merseyside. So far this term, Coutinho has managed to score three league goals this season – including the goal of the season contender against Southampton last Sunday – with four assists to complement that total. Coutinho is definitely Liverpool’s best creative outlet with 1.52 chances created per 90 minutes played (p90). Coutinho’s form since January is evident through this figure as his chances created p90 stat has been steadily rising from 1.16 – which is the total that this stat stood at on the 6th January.
Coutinho has also played an average of 1.31 key passes p90 too which shows impressive ball retention in a key area. Not only is his passing excellent but his dribbling is also exquisite to watch. His squirmy feet and lightweight centre allow him to turn and manipulate defenders with ease and it’s no surprise that his successful take-ons figure stands at a solid 55.56%. A further statistic to back-up Coutinho’s resurgent form is his shooting accuracy. Many would believe that Coutinho’s shooting is completely wayward, however, the young Brazilian actually hits 55% of his shots on target, which is higher than Daniel Sturridge and just shy of Sergio Aguero.
2014/15 has been another excellent season for Sergio Aguero. The Argentine master striker has once again been City’s leading light in a strong title charge. The Argentine international is challenging once again for the Golden Boot award and his fight with Diego Costa will go down to the wire. Aguero’s scoring form is simply incredible and his goals to minutes played ratio is quite something to behold. In this season alone, Aguero has managed over one goal p90 played with 17 strikes in 1472 minutes.
It’s easy to see why Aguero’s goalscoring abilities are so strong. His deadly shooting accuracy of 58% (a very good score for a striker) combined with his leopard-like speed make him one of the most potent attackers in the world and Liverpool’s new found resolve in defence will be placed against its toughest task to date. Aguero isn’t just an out and out striker though and his ability on the ball is just as good as his finishing as he shows us with his strong 56.67% successful take-ons figure. He also leads the line well by winning 50.93% of his total duels.
His goalscoring record against Liverpool is decent too, a record which includes the Argentine scoring just 15 seconds after coming on as a sub in the season’s first encounter back in August.
My prediction for this one is going to be a 2-1 win for City despite their tragic record at Anfield. I agree with Pellegrini when he says that Liverpool’s extra-time exertions in midweek give City the edge so I’m leaning towards the Manchester side. Liverpool could win it if they keep a clean sheet and City’s expansive style might suit them better than the more defensive sides who’ve made life hard for Liverpool at Anfield this season. However, I’m going with City despite their Barcelona setback.
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