On Sunday, Manchester City face Liverpool at Anfield in the most important game of their league campaign so far, and manager Manuel Pellegrini has insisted his side will stick to their attacking principles rather than alter their style to combat the home side's obvious threat going forward.
Pellegrini told reporters (via the Mirror):
Maybe I’m wrong, but I always think the same way as a manager – if you play to draw you will lose.
So we’re going to play to win. Of course, after the game if we couldn’t win and we draw, it’s a good result.
But we’re not going to play against Liverpool thinking we must draw. We don’t know to play in that way.
When you play in the Champions League and have two legs, it’s very important not to concede goals at home – that’s why maybe we were not so open against Barcelona.
We tried to have a more offensive attack but couldn’t because Barcelona played very well. But we didn’t try to play in another way than we always do.
It's been billed by some as a winner-takes-all match; the destiny of the title riding on the outcome. That analysis is perhaps over-simplified, but there's no doubting it's a 90 minutes of huge importance to both sides.
Liverpool currently lead the table, two points ahead of Chelsea and four points ahead of third-placed City who still have two games in hand. The destiny of the title, for now, is still in City's hands, but all that could change after Sunday's match.
City have stuck rigidly to their attacking philosophy all season in the Premier League, and it's served them well. They have scored 84 league goals—138 in all competitions—including 15 in their last five matches.
They have lost just once in their last 20 league games, including 16 wins. However, Liverpool's run of nine consecutive victories has meant they remain firmly in the title race. It's all set up to be a classic.
It would be foolish for Pellegrini to abandon his attacking intent at this stage of the season, but the pace of Liverpool's forwards up against Martin Demichelis will be a concern. In Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling, Liverpool's front line is full of speed and movement, exactly what the Argentine tends to struggle with.
Demichelis has been excellent in recent weeks, but Suarez's runs in behind, evidenced on Sunday in their win over West Ham where Steven Gerrard's cross-field passes to the Uruguayan caused all sorts of problems, will be a worry for Pellegrini.
Demichelis will need to rely on his superb reading of the game to avoid getting caught out.
The return of Sergio Aguero, who was put through a rigorous workout before Saturday's game with Southampton, is a huge boost for City and he looks set to play.
That means he will either partner Edin Dzeko in a two-pronged attack or start up front on his own with David Silva just behind in the No.10 role.
Silva's recent form has been imperious, and it's unlikely Pellegrini will want to alter his position, but Dzeko's improvement in recent months has been obvious and he deserves his current standing as a regular starter.
Whatever shape Pellegrini opts for, this is a season-defining match that neither side can afford to lose.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here: @RobPollard
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