After a midweek trip to Scotland Liverpool return south of the border for their first home league fixture of the new season. Reigning champions Manchester City are the visitors on Sunday afternoon as Anfield makes its 2012-13 Premier League bow.
A much changed Liverpool side overcame Hearts 1-0 in the Europa League on Thursday night but the memories of last weekend’s 3-0 defeat to West Bromwich Albion are still very much fresh in the mind. An opening day league defeat is never welcome but with new manager Brendan Rodgers hoping to hit the ground running it was even more disappointing than usual.
The fixtures do not get any easier after City have been and gone either with the Reds set to face both Arsenal and Manchester United before September is out. On a positive note though the Citizens hardly looked invincible in their opening 3-2 victory over Southampton, the hosts trailed 2-1 with less than 20 minutes remaining.
“We know that if we are going to have any sort of success this year, we’ve got to make sure we can win as a many of our home games as we possibly can. Manchester City are the benchmark, they are the champions and it’s going to be a really difficult game.
“But my players are really focused and looking forward to the game. Anfield is somewhere we want to make sure is a real fortress and there’s no better game to start working towards that than against the champions,” commented Kop boss Rodgers in his pre-match press conference.
“I think that Liverpool are always dangerous at home and I think under Brendan Rodgers, they will do very well this year because he is a very good coach.
“They won away to Hearts but I expect them to perhaps be more dangerous because they lost their opening game at West Brom and will be eager to get that result out of their system,” said City manager Roberto Mancini in quotes published on mcfc.co.uk.
Liverpool Team News:
The main team news from a Liverpool perspective is the suspension of centre-back Daniel Agger after the Dane’s red card against West Brom. Vice-captain Jamie Carragher is likely to deputise after captaining the side against Hearts. Elsewhere Martin Kelly is again on stand-by in case Jose Enrique fails to recover from the knee injury that has affected him over the past week. The likelihood is the starting eleven will look very similar to the game at the Hawthorns despite the negative result meaning the players rested on Thursday night will all return to the fold. They include captain Steven Gerrard, striker Luis Suarez and full-back Glen Johnson. Andy Carroll should overcome his hamstring problem and be available from the substitutes bench whilst 17-year-old winger Raheem Sterling and new signing Oussama Assaidi are also pushing for selection.
Player to watch: Steven Gerrard
Although strangely subdued against the Baggies, Gerrard enjoyed a good European Championships with England over the summer and will be hoping to continue his form and fitness into the new campaign. Always a player for the big occasion Sunday will hopefully see the inspirational 32-year-old at his very best given the quality at City’s disposal. One of Liverpool’s biggest weaknesses of late has been scoring goals and Gerrard will be expected to contribute heavily in this regard over the course of the season.
Manchester City Team News:
The man who won last season’s title deep into injury time of the final game, Sergio Aguero, will be sorely missed over the next month or so after sustaining a knee injury against Southampton. Edin Dzeko replaced the Argentine and scored in that game but Mancini may favour Italian maverick Mario Balotelli to partner Carlos Tevez in attack. Dynamic right-back Micah Richards will also be missing for a number of weeks with a foot problem and England team mate Gareth Barry is set to be absent also due to a hernia problem. New signing Jack Rodwell struggled at times last weekend so expect Nigel De Jong or James Milner to replace the former Everton midfielder. Winger Adam Johnson is expected to be sold in the next few days with Sunderland a likely destination.
Player to watch: Mario Balotelli
The eccentric Italian was one of the stars of Italy’s march to the Euro 2012 final and may finally be adding consistency to his performances. The former Inter striker was originally known more for his various off-the-field misdemeanours which have included breaking curfews, throwing darts at youth-team players and accidently setting his own house a blaze with fireworks. However, signs are the 22-year-old is finally maturing and given his undoubted talent a dazzling future could easily lie ahead for the £24m man. Although not guaranteed to start this fixture following his summer exertions, Balotelli will be hopeful of not repeating his red card in the corresponding fixture last season.
Match Facts & Stats
? Liverpool and Manchester City have met a total of 165 times in their respective histories. The Reds hold the upper hand overall with 81 wins to City’s 42. There have also been 42 draws between the two teams.
? Liverpool have won only one of the last seven Premier League encounters with Manchester City, although four of the other six have resulted in draws.
? Liverpool’s 3-0 loss to West Brom last week was their worst ever opening to a Premier League campaign.
? Liverpool’s woes in front of goal continued in that game with the Reds posting the worse shooting stats in the Premier League for the opening weekend. They hit the target with just 22% of attempts and converted none.
? Manchester City have now won seven Premier League matches on the bounce and their last defeat was on April 8th against Arsenal.
Andre Marriner is the official appointed to take charge of this contest. The 41-year-old from the West Midlands only showed three yellow cards during his previous Premier League match this season; Monday night’s 1-0 victory for Everton over Manchester United.
This is going to be an extremely difficult game of that there is no doubt but generally we have raised our performances over the past few years when faced with a higher calibre of opposition. Many of the players will also have fond memories of knocking City out of the League Cup on root to lifting the trophy earlier this year. It’s difficult to predict results at such an early stage of the season with everyone still finding there feet so I’ll play it safe and go for a 1-1 draw.
Liverpool – Europa League vs. Hearts at Anfield on Thursday 30th August 2012, kick off 8.05pm (live on ESPN).
Manchester City – Premier League vs. Queens Park Rangers at the Etihad on Saturday 1st September 2012, kick off 5.30pm (live on ESPN).
So that’s what we think, how about you? Let us know your thoughts and predictions for the game below…
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