How Manchester City Will Line Up Against Sunderland
If the mark of top teams is always how they bounce back from adversity, then Manchester City have a perfect chance to show just how good they are on Wednesday evening.
Manuel Pellegrini's side will still be reeling from the manner in which they lost both the match and title favouritism at Anfield on Sunday afternoon, but with the visit of bottom club Sunderland comes the opportunity of redemption.
Six weeks have passed since City beat Gus Poyet's men to claim the Capital One Cup at Wembley, but this league fixture will assume an even greater importance now.
Win, and City will go four points behind Liverpool, exactly where they kicked off the match at Anfield on Sunday.
However, a failure to pick up the three points could see irreparable damage done to their bid for a second league title inside three years.
Here's how Pellegrini could play it:
Goalkeeper: Joe Hart
Beaten three times at Anfield, Joe Hart will expect an easier time of things as City return to their home ground.
The England goalkeeper's positioning could be called into question for the goal from Raheem Sterling which gave Liverpool the lead following their lightning start, but there was nothing that Hart could have done about the header from Martin Skrtel and then Philippe Coutinho's winning goal.
Hart will now be hopeful of a far easier evening, and one in which three points are collected in a drama-free manner.
Defence: Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany, Martin Demichelis, Aleksandar Kolarov
Vincent Kompany will still be having nightmares about his sliced clearance which allowed Coutinho to sweep home that Liverpool winner, but few in the game possess as much mental strength as the City skipper, and he'll be more determined than ever to bounce back and lead his team here.
He'll once again be accompanied by Martin Demichelis after the Argentinean put in an admirable display against Liverpool, with Pablo Zabaleta at right-back and Pellegrini once again preferring to field Aleksandar Kolarov instead of Gael Clichy at left-back.
After conceding goals to Sunderland's Phil Bardsley and Fabio Borini in league and cup this season, the quartet will expect a clean sheet.
Midfield: Fernandinho, James Milner, David Silva
City noticeably improved at Anfield once James Milner was introduced, with the Englishman offering far more in midfield than Javi Garcia, who nonetheless appears to be a favourite of Pellegrini.
In the absence of the injured Yaya Toure and in a match in which City are surely going to be on the front foot, Milner deserves to start in midfield alongside the Brazilian Fernandinho, who was pushed further forward once Toure limped off against Liverpool.
He should drop deeper here though, with Milner ahead of him and David Silva even more advanced following his terrific performance on Sunday, when he didn't deserve to be on the losing side.
Attack: Jesus Navas, Samir Nasri, Sergio Aguero
Sergio Aguero returned from the bench for the final 22 minutes at Liverpool, replacing the disappointing Edin Dzeko as he did so.
The Argentinean might not feel at the top of his game just yet, but following the manner of that weekend loss the sight of him returning to the starting XI here would give City and their supporters a huge boost at a time when they need it the most.
Either side of Aguero Pellegrini could once again play Samir Nasri and Jesus Navas, with the pair no doubt desperate to bounce back from what were disappointing weekend displays.
Ready in Reserve
So Aguero's return would see Dzeko dropped to the bench, a position he'd have hoped to have seen the back of this season.
There is little doubt that the Bosnian doesn't possess the quality of his team-mate though, and with Alvaro Negredo currently in such disappointing form and Stevan Jovetic's fitness still not trusted by his manager, the Argentinean could be left upfront on his own from the beginning of the game at least.
Dzeko, Negredo, Garcia and the like could be placed to the bench, and they will be ready to be called upon if and when needed.
How They'll Line Up
Toure's absence would, of course, be a blow to any team, let alone one challenging for the Premier League title. But in Milner, City have a performer who would at the very least cover the same amount of ground as his more illustrious team-mate.
A front three of Nasri, Navas and Aguero would surely offer more movement and guile than any combination that City could muster, and so if Milner can get around the pitch and if Silva can keep up his stellar form, then it would be just a matter of time before City exert their authority and their undoubted class all over this game and their struggling opponents.
City can't afford to think about what would happen to their title ambitions if they don't.
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