Manchester City v Liverpool, Premier League, February 21, 2010
The battle for fourth place and the final Champions League spot in the league comes into sharp focus at Eastlands on Sunday as Roberto Mancini’s Citizens looking to make it seven Premier League wins in a row at the City of Mnachester Stadium against fellow top four protagonists, Liverpool. (Manchester City are 7/4 to finish in the top four, Liverpool are 8/5.)
The Reds failed to impress again on Thursday night as the Merseysiders struggled in the Europa League against Romanian minnows Unirea Urziceni. David Ngog’s late strike earned a narrow victory for Rafa’s men in the last competition they have a realistic chance of winning, and the Liverpool faithful will be hoping for a better performance against City.
Thoughts of winning at Eastlands though come with some serious downers for the Scousers. City have won 18 and lost just one of their last 22 Premier League home matches, while Liverpool have been rather shaky on the road this season, taking maximum points from just two of their last ten away games in the league.
Adding to the sense that this match may prove another difficult test for Liverpool is the history between the two sides. Although the sides drew 2-all earlier on in the season, in general goals and drama have been lacking from this fixture as four of the last six Premier League meetings between City and Liverpool have ended as draws. Additionally, there have been just six goals scored in total in Liverpool’s last six Premier League away matches. (4/5 to be under 2.5 goals, 5/4 to be over.)
Liverpool will continue to be without key personnel Fernando Torres and Yossi Benayoun at the weekend, while full-back Glen Johnson also remains a long-term absentee. That means, much like the match against Unirea, Benitez will be reliant on captain Steven Gerrard to rally the troops once more, while Dirk Kuyt (four goals in his last six matches) and David Ngog will be the Reds’ main goal-threats. (Liverpool are 5/1 to win both halves.)
Further back in midfield, Liverpool will again have to try to find the right blend which has been missing all season. Maxi Rodriguez already looks like the latest addition to the Ryan Babel, Albert Reira and Alberto Aquilani club of players who have failed to sparkle at Anfield. And while Liverpool struggle to find the offensive harmony across the middle of the pitch, Rafa is likely to err on the side of caution by employing enforcers Javier Mascherano and Lucas Leiva in an effort to stop City from playing in front of their home crowd.
While Liverpool definitely have problems at the minute, so too do the Citizens. Roberto Mancini may have started his life in the Premier League with three straight wins, but the dapper Italian has fallen on tougher times of late having won just two of his next six games and taking just seven points from a possible 18. As many have pointed out, even previous coach Mark Hughes had a better record than that.
City will once again be without Carlos Tevez in their attack with the Argentine forward still in his homeland after the birth of his second child. Elsewhere, Craig Bellamy and Vincent Kompany will undergo late fitness tests, while the Welsh firebrand may be also forced to watch from the sidelines after a reported bust-up with his manager on Thursday. Finally, Patrick Vieira will begin a three-match ban against Liverpool after accepting an FA charge of violent conduct – which many City fans may not be too upset about after his average performances since returning to the Premier League.
On those fit, able and present, Emmanuel Adebayor will be the hosts main goal-threat (Manchester City are 5/1 to win both halves), while the Togolese striker could be joined by Roque Santa Cruz to form a two-pronged attack. Adam Johnson will try and keep up his good form since joining from Middlesbrough in the transfer window, while Shaun Wright-Phillips and Stephen Ireland will also be pushing for starting berths.
101gg predicts: Manchester City 1 – Liverpool 0 (8/1)
Full match odds here.