Liverpool v Manchester City, Premier League, November 21, 2009
It may come as a major surprise to many who feel that Liverpool are in â€œcrisisâ€ and Manchester City are going to break into the top four this season, but only one point separates these two teams and a defeat in the early kick-off on Saturday could leave either side looking desperate.
Five consecutive league draws in succession have left Manchester Cityâ€™s Champions League challenge looking a little forlorn. Their most recent results – draws with Wigan, Fulham, Birmingham and the Burnley – were hugely disappointing. In particular, Mark Hughesâ€™ side failed to threaten against Birmingham and secured a point thanks to a Shay Given penalty save. And the defending in the 3-3 draw with Burnley was appalling and now famously torn apart (Wayne Bridge receiving special mention) by Alan Hansen on Match of the Day.
Both Bridge and Joleon Lescott improved their reputations on England duty against Brazil last weekend and we can expect City to be a lot more tuned in at Anfield. Question-marks have also been raised in recent weeks over the form of Emmanuel Adebayor (7/4 to score) and Carlos Tevez (9/1 to score first).
Since opening the campaign in blistering form, Adebayor has not scored since his goal against Arsenal and subsequent celebration earned him a three-match ban. And Tevez has scored just twice in the league this season and yet again Sir Alex Fergusonâ€™s doubts about the goal scoring prowess of the tireless Argentine appear to be spot on.
Following his public complaints about playing for Republic of Ireland, Stephen Ireland (5/1 to score) should be chomping at the bit to prove himself at the highest level and Craig Bellamy (15/8 to score) will also be keen to continue his great start to the campaign. City did play a friendly match during the international break, a 1-0 defeat in the UAE and will play for a win which would give their Champions League challenge some legs.
The current situation at Anfield has been discussed at length and even during the break Rafa Benitez has been vocal with his first ever interviews to an English newspaper. Benitez said if Fernando Torres (7/1 to score a brace) would be sold he would leave Anfield, and El Nino is one of a number of players who looks like making this clash after he returned to training on Wednesday.
Talisman Steven Gerrard returns (7/4 to score) and Dan Agger and Glen Johnson are also expected to play (Liverpool are 8/5 to keep a clean sheet). David Ngog should also have a chance to perform another dive after picking up a broken nose on international duty with the French Under-21s. And there have even been suggestions that Albert Riera and Yossi Benayoun will also make it having undergone the placenta healing regime made famous by Robin van Persie this week.
Benitez has outlined how important this match is: “I am 100% sure everything will be totally different if we can win the game against City, maybe we can start the season right now. Winning against City will boost everyone and if that happens I am sure we will see the best of the team.”
Throw in the fact that Gareth Barry (6/1 to score) will appear for the first time at Anfield since joining City when he was coveted by Liverpool for so long and the importance for both teams to make the Champions League next season and it might not turn out to be a classic but the result could be crucial.
101gg predicts: Liverpool 2 â€“ Manchester City 0 (7/1)
Full match odds here.