After a disappointing penalty shootout defeat to Manchester City in Sunday’s Capital One Cup final, Liverpool steel themselves for another test against Manuel Pellegrini’s title challengers, with the two sides meeting at Anfield on Wednesday night in the Premier League.
A shot-stopping clinic from Willy Caballero ensured City their second League Cup trophy in three seasons, with the Argentinian denying spot-kicks from Lucas Leiva, Adam Lallana and Philippe Coutinho, and he provided City with a welcome boost as they look to push on with their title charge in 2015/16.
Presenting City with further motivation are the wounds from November’s 4-1 loss at home to Liverpool, with the barnstorming attacking unit of Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Lallana pinning Pellegrini’s side back in an overwhelming display; victory at Anfield will be crucial for City.
Per Melissa Reddy of Goal, Jurgen Klopp vowed after the final that his side would "strike back," and another meeting with the Citizens gives them the perfect opportunity to do so.
So who will win out on Wednesday night and steady the ship in their push for a strong placing in the Premier League this season?
Date: Wednesday, 2 March
Time: 8 p.m. GMT / 3 a.m. ET
Venue: Anfield, Liverpool
TV Info: BT Sport 1 (U.K only) / NBCSN (U.S only)
Form Lines (Last 5 Games)
Man City: L-L-L-W-W
Leading his side through another rigorous 120 minutes of action on Sunday, Klopp is now feeling the effects, with his squad hampered with injuries to a number of key players.
Lucas, Mamadou Sakho and Daniel Sturridge are all doubts for Wednesday night, having suffered injuries at Wembley.
Sakho is perhaps the most worrying, after being withdrawn midway through the first half against City following a clash of heads with Emre Can, with the Frenchman visibly frustrated as he headed down the tunnel.
Per the club's official website, Klopp detailed Lucas, Sakho and Sturridge’s problems on Tuesday, saying, "we don’t want to go and risk tomorrow, but who is available is available and then we have to make the choice."
Continuing the revolving-door policy in Liverpool’s treatment room this season, however, Klopp can welcome back a first-team quartet in Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Martin Skrtel and Joe Allen.
Lallana came on as a second-half substitute at the weekend and performed with tenacity in a shuttling, box-to-box role in midfield; he offers Klopp an intriguing option in forming his midfield unit.
Elsewhere, the German remains without Kevin Stewart, Jordan Rossiter, Joe Gomez and Danny Ings, with the youthful group still recovering from various injuries.
City's main injury concern is key midfielder Yaya Toure, who suffered a foot injury at Wembley on Sunday, leaving the Ivory Coast international as a doubt for Pellegrini's selection.
Pellegrini confirmed in his pre-match press conference on Tuesday afternoon, however, that former Reds winger Raheem Sterling will keep his place in the City starting lineup, per the club's official website:
I don’t know what the starting XI will be yet, but one player who I’m sure will start is Raheem Sterling.
He’s a young man, a young player starting his career, but he knows how to deal with pressure.
He'll receive the same treatment tomorrow as he did at the weekend, but I’m sure he can play without a problem, and he’ll be a very important player, as he was in last game.
I don’t have any doubts about him, it’s important for him to play under pressure, that’s what big players do.
I have 100 percent trust in Raheem. He will play tomorrow and he’ll be important.
Fabian Delph, Kevin De Bruyne and Samir Nasri all remain out of contention, with calf, knee and hamstring injuries, respectively.
Injuries to Lucas, Sakho and Sturridge could deprive Klopp of three of his key starting options from the weekend, leaving the former Borussia Dortmund manager to field another makeshift lineup at Anfield.
Meanwhile, question marks over the form of Simon Mignolet and Alberto Moreno pose a further quandary.
Mignolet is likely to continue in goal, however, behind a much-changed back four, with Nathaniel Clyne the only player guaranteed to keep his place in the starting lineup from Sunday’s defeat.
Lovren, Kolo Toure and Jon Flanagan could come into defence, shielded by Jordan Henderson and Can in midfield.
With Sturridge potentially out, Divock Origi could lead the line, supported by Coutinho, Firmino and James Milner.
For City, Pellegrini is unlikely to make many changes, though the Chilean’s balancing act between first-choice goalkeeper Joe Hart and his in-form back-up, Caballero, could see Sunday’s penalty hero drop out of the starting lineup.
In defence, Bacary Sagna, Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi are likely to keep their places, with Pellegrini choosing between Gael Clichy and Aleksandar Kolarov at left-back.
In midfield, Sunday’s goalscorer, Fernandinho, should be joined once again by Fernando in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Provided Sergio Aguero came through the weekend unscathed, Pellegrini should keep most of his first-choice forward line for the trip to Anfield, with the big-name duo joined by Sterling and David Silva. Toure could be replaced by Jesus Navas.
Likely Liverpool XI: Mignolet; Clyne, Toure, Lovren, Flanagan; Henderson, Can; Milner, Firmino, Coutinho; Origi.
Likely Man City XI: Hart; Sagna, Kompany, Otamendi, Kolarov; Fernandinho, Fernando; Navas, Silva, Sterling; Aguero.
Players to Watch
Brought on as a late substitute at Wembley, 20-year-old Belgian striker Origi turned the game in Liverpool’s favour, with his hard-working brand of attacking football giving the Reds a much-needed edge alongside Sturridge.
Origi came close to scoring the winner with a close-range header, but he was unable to beat Caballero from the edge of the six-yard box. If he starts on Wednesday, he will be desperate to score.
The former Lille striker has all the qualities required to thrive under Klopp in the long run, with his pace and power in leading the line offering Liverpool a useful alternative to Sturridge.
Battling injury throughout 2015/16, Kompany is yet to reach a sustained level of form, and the City captain’s performance at Wembley on Sunday was far from the standard expected from the travelling Etihad Stadium support.
Struggling when stepping out of defence and eventually exposed by the dynamism of Origi, the Belgium international was outshone by centre-back partner Otamendi.
With a roaring Kop looming over him at Anfield, the pressure will be on Kompany to improve, and with Liverpool eager to put Sunday’s defeat behind them, a big performance will be required from the 29-year-old.
Sergio Aguero vs. Simon Mignolet
Bar a calamitous error in conceding Fernandinho’s low strike at Wembley, Mignolet produced an emphatic performance to keep Liverpool in the contest—but, such is life for a top-level goalkeeper, his flaws were rightly magnified post-match.
Speaking on Tuesday, however, Klopp reaffirmed his backing of Mignolet as Liverpool’s No. 1, per the Press Association (h/t This is Anfield): "He is old enough and experienced enough and together we have to handle this situation and together we have to go through."
Mignolet kept a lively Aguero at bay throughout the League Cup final, but whether he can repeat this performance on Wednesday night remains to be seen.
The City striker will be fired up to improve on his display, and his goals could be key to Pellegrini’s side securing another win over the Reds.
Man City: 37/20
Odds via Odds Shark, and correct at time of writing.
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