Why Manchester City Must Conquer History and Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday

Rob PollardFeatured ColumnistApril 8, 2014

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26:  Yaya Toure of Manchester City is closed down by Joe Allen of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Liverpool at Etihad Stadium on December 26, 2013 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)
Jan Kruger/Getty Images

There’s little doubt that Manchester City are going to have to find one of their best performances in recent memory if they are to emerge victorious from their all-important match against Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26:  Philippe Coutinho of Liverpool controls the ball as he takes on Fernandinho of Manchester City during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Liverpool at Etihad Stadium on December 26, 2013 in Man
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

The Reds are on a nine-match winning streak in the league and have a front line full of movement, pace and ingenuity. It's the toughest of league tests and one City can ill-afford to lose.

One look at the history books makes the task seem even more difficult. City have won just once at Anfield since 1981—a 2-1 win back in 2003 under Kevin Keegan. Nicolas Anelka scored two as City came from behind to win, with Peter Schmeichel pulling off the save of the season to ensure the three points.

David Sommeil, Joey Barton and Ali Benarbia all started for City that day, and despite the quality of the players who have arrived at City since, they still haven't managed to emulate Keegan's less illustrious men.

City's home record is much better, but even so, there have been some bitter results, none more so than the 2-2 draw at old ground Maine Road in 1996, when City's relegation was confirmed amid confusion and chaos.

Steve Lomas took the ball into the corner in the closing seconds to play for time after being told a draw would keep City up, only for a screaming Niall Quinn, fresh from his shower after being subbed off earlier, to run down the line to tell him otherwise.

It was a moment that summed up City's old catastrophic ways and signalled a period of decline that took years to reverse.

However, there's a feeling that Sunday's game stands alone. A one-off match that transcends anything this fixture has offered before. Winner takes all is simplified and wrong, but there's no doubting it's of extreme importance to both sides.

After his side's win over West Ham on Sunday, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers attempted to put all the pressure on to City, telling BBC Sport:

They have invested to win the Premier League and the Champions League.

They will be looking to get a result next Sunday. For us, we are just going to enjoy it.

We know it's a big game. But in the big games this season, we've tended to do well.

Rodgers deserves great credit for turning Liverpool around after the shambolic tenure of his predecessor, Kenny Dalglish. Using largely the players he inherited, Rodgers has demonstrated tactical flexibility and willingness to attack, which have brought him huge rewards.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26:  Luis Suarez (C) and Raheem Sterling (R) of Liverpool congratulate goalscorer Philippe Coutinho during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Liverpool at Etihad Stadium on December 26, 2013 in Man
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

If Liverpool do win on Sunday, they will have the destiny of the title in their hands and will edge ever closer to becoming the first side since Everton in 1984 to go from a seventh-place finish one year to champions the next.

Jumps like that don't happen in the Premier League era—third to first is the biggest jump since the revamp of the top flight in 1992.

Rodgers is on the cusp of history.

But City, of course, have weapons of their own, none more lethal than the returning Sergio Aguero. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him start, given the workout he did before Saturday's win over Southampton.

One concern is the news that David Silva—City's best player in recent weeks—has been playing with an ankle injury that sees him miss two sessions a week, according to Rob Dawson at the Manchester Evening News.

Silva's involvement is likely to be key, with his ability to find space and link the play a vital component in this City side.

If City are going to buck their Anfield trend, Silva and Aguero will likely be at the heart of it.


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_