How Manchester City Will Line Up Against Liverpool in Vital Premier League Tilt

Phil KeidelContributor IIApril 11, 2014

City and Liverpool are both chasing the same prize.
City and Liverpool are both chasing the same prize.Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Are you going for it, or are you going to lay up?

That question will be asked approximately 1,000 times over the course of four days at Augusta National Golf Club with the Masters Tournament currently in full bloom.

Augusta has many famous and pivotal holes but as the old saying goes, the tournament really does not begin until the back nine on Sunday.

That's when the players have to face the two par five's, No. 13 and No. 15, where the question of whether to go for the green in two or lay up short of the water that protects each green must be answered with the tournament truly on the line.

Players' careers have been defined by this decision. Asking Chip Beck about this, for example, would be unkind and unwise.

Either way, though, it makes for unbelievable theater.

The Premier League season is, metaphorically, well into the back nine on Sunday. And Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini faces the same sort of risk/reward decision that Sunday's Masters contenders will face as he takes his side to Anfield to play Liverpool.

Is Pellegrini going to go for it and try to win at Anfield, or is he going to lay up and play for a draw, i.e., not to lose?

Pellegrini would be wise to take one point and get out of Liverpool, if he can.
Pellegrini would be wise to take one point and get out of Liverpool, if he can.Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Pellegrini is already on record as saying that City are going to Anfield with three points, not one, in mind.

Sort of.

Per Richard Jolly of, Pellegrini is at once boldly declarative of his intent to win this match and pragmatically bent on taking one point if that is all he can get:

Maybe I am wrong but I always think in the same way as a managerif you play to draw, you will lose. So we are going to play to win. Of course, after the game, if we couldn't win the game and we draw it's a good result, but we are not going to play against Liverpool thinking we must draw. We don't know to play in that way.

See what Pellegrini did there? He used 70 words to say nothing.

Which is fine. Because if we are honest with each other, craven and boring as it might be, the only sensible course for Pellegrini is to play for the draw.

A draw would leave City, at worst, four points behind both Liverpool and Chelsea with two games in hand—with Liverpool and Chelsea still set to play each other before the season ends. If there is such a thing as a dominant trailing position, that would be it for City.

This strategy will not sit well with City fans in the short run. Sky Blues supporters surely want to see the Citizens flip the script on Liverpool and boss them on their own park. Doing that would mean playing two strikers, four midfielders and pouring the left- and right-backs up the pitch all day.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers would love to see City try that. The Reds have not been shut out in the league since Nov. 2 and have scored at least three times in seven of their last nine league matches.

Going back to the Masters analogy, then, Pellegrini is standing in the 15th fairway now with the green barely in reach. There is plenty of time for Pellegrini to take out the 3-wood and be a hero. Later.

Right now, Pellegrini needs to hit his 8-iron down to a comfortable wedge distance, hit the wedge in the center of the green and two-putt for par.

Even if it isn't much fun to watch.

City's projected XI at Anfield: Joe Hart; Gael Clichy, Vincent Kompany, Martin Demichelis, Pablo Zabaleta; Samir Nasri, Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, David Silva, Jesus Navas; Sergio Aguero.