Premier League Preview: How Liverpool Will Line Up Against Manchester City
In reality, it might not be the result that decides where the title lands this season, but as Liverpool prepare to welcome Manchester City to Anfield on Sunday, this titular clash certainly feels like a Premier League classic in the making.
Two of the league’s highest-scoring attacks coming against each other—Sergio Aguero’s imminent return to the City side makes a potential personal battle with Luis Suarez a fascinating sideshow. Two of the league’s most prolific goal-scoring midfielders, Steven Gerrard and Yaya Toure, in direct confrontation. And two of the league’s most enterprisingly attacking setups at a traditional cathedral of English football.
On the back of a nine-match winning run, Liverpool will enter the match with confidence arguably at an all-time high; their hard-fought 2-1 win showed the desire, fight and mentality that has been so sorely lacking from many a Reds in recent years. By contrast, City’s easy 4-1 dispatching of Southampton last week will have stood them in good stead as well.
Here’s our Liverpool lineup for Sunday’s clash at Anfield, in a 4-4-2 diamond formation to pack the numbers against a formidable City midfield. Enjoy and let us know your picks in the comments below.
Goalkeeper: Simon Mignolet
Before their 2-1 win at Upton Park last Sunday, Liverpool had kept three clean sheets in their previous five matches. Given that Andy Carroll had practically punched Simon Mignolet in the build-up to Guy Demel’s scrappy goal, West Ham should have been the Reds’ fourth in six.
Alas, controversial and scrappy though the goal was, Mignolet’s clean-sheet run encountered yet another setback. The Belgian shot-stopper will have to be at his best against an all-star City attack.
Right-Back: Glen Johnson
The Liverpool right flank will be a hotbed of attacking activity on Sunday, given the attacking tendencies of both Glen Johnson and his opposite number, Aleksandar Kolarov (or Gael Clichy).
In a 4-4-2 diamond, Johnson wouldn’t get as much protection or help from Raheem Sterling on the right-hand side, so starting on the front foot will be key.
Left-Back: Jon Flanagan
Jon Flanagan’s return to the first team this season has been a wonderful story for local Liverpudlian supporters, and the significance of Sunday’s match will not be lost on anyone: Flanagan made his debut in the same fixture, also in mid-April, three years ago.
None of the opponents he faced on the flanks that night will be present this time around, as he has to deal with the quite varied options Manuel Pellegrini has at his disposal. The sure-to-be red-hot atmosphere at Anfield may well be ramped up even more when Flanagan launches into one of his trademark full-blooded tackles.
Centre-Back: Martin Skrtel
It’s been an incredible roller coaster of a season for Martin Skrtel, who seems to be finding the right form at just the right time. A masterful performance in defence against a physical West Ham side last Sunday showed a new level of maturity and consistency.
He’ll be eager to show that he deserves a first-team place beyond the end of the current season, and why not add to his six-goal tally for the season while doing it?
Centre-Back: Mamadou Sakho
Daniel Agger sustained a pre-match injury last week, but Mamadou Sakho slotted back into the team so seamlessly, it didn’t seem like he had spent months on the sidelines injured.
Against an opposing strikeforce likely consisting of either Edin Dzeko or Alvaro Negredo, Sakho’s strength and composure will be needed in what will be a stern test of the Reds’ title credentials.
Holding Midfielder: Steven Gerrard
By avoiding going into Anthony Taylor’s book last Sunday, Steven Gerrard completed a nerve-wracking few matches without notching a yellow card, ensuring that he will be eligible to start the crunch clash against City this week.
Perfect news for Liverpool, given Gerrard’s tendency to step up his game in the biggest of matches. How poetic it would be if Gerrard rolled back the years and came up with a trademark long-range pile-driver to seal a win.
Central Midfielder: Lucas
Lucas’ second-half display at West Ham, having come on at half-time for Philippe Coutinho, oozed cool, calm and collected as he supported Gerrard and Jordan Henderson and gave the Reds control of the midfield.
On the back of an assured performance, he gets a start for us against City to add another presence in the middle of the park, and to help his colleagues out against arguably the Premier League’s toughest midfield pairing in Yaya Toure and Fernandinho.
Central Midfielder: Jordan Henderson
The narrative continues here as we look for a physical presence and work rate in a tough midfield test.
Jordan Henderson provides just that. If he’s to justify his improved stature this season, there’s no better opposition to shine against than City’s all-star midfield lineup.
Attacking Midfielder: Raheem Sterling
Raheem Sterling, a specialist winger and forward, as the tip of a midfield diamond? His smooth transition to this position is down to the good work of Brendan Rodgers, and Sterling’s strength on the ball offers a superb all-rounded option at the tip of the Reds’ midfield diamond.
After an accomplished display at Manchester United, Sterling gets another chance to shut down a direct opponent much bigger in size than himself.
Striker: Luis Suarez
Without Coutinho in the side, while both Henderson and Sterling will contribute in linking midfield with attack, the bulk of the responsibility will fall on Luis Suarez’s shoulders.
His tendency to drop deep and relentless work rate in the final third will ensure that neither Yaya Toure nor Fernandinho will feel completely at ease storming up the field. And when he gets at the City back four directly, expect the Kop to rise in anticipation.
Striker: Daniel Sturridge
City fans will not be looking forward to the pace of Daniel Sturridge going directly against the at-times shaky confidence of Martin Demichelis.
Just as Aguero and Dzeko (or Negredo) will pose a considerable threat to Liverpool’s back line, Suarez and Daniel Sturridge will cause Vincent Kompany and Martin Demichelis plenty of problems. May the best attack win.