If there’s any man that can accomplish such a feat it’s Reds boss Kenny Dalglish who masterminded a smash and grab victory over Chelsea last week. Glen Johnson’s late winner made it seven without defeat for the Merseysider’s since they were demolished by Tottenham at White Hart Lane in mid-September. Liverpool have won four and drawn three since that loss in North London with their steady form seeing them rise up to sixth in the table. They have coped surprisingly well without captain Steven Gerrard who has suffered badly with injuries during 2011. Many surmised that the Red’s would struggle without their talisman but the form of summer signing Charlie Adam has softened the blow of losing Gerrard. The Scotland international has taken his time to acclimatise to life at Anfield but his all round performances over the past couple of weeks suggest he is the man to fill Gerrard’s boots on a long-term basis. His display at Stamford Bridge last week was magnificent as he showed us both sides of his game. In defence he was breaking up attacks, hounding Chelsea at every opportunity and snapping into tackles whenever possible. However the offensive side of his game is what shone through with his eye for a pass and intelligent ball distribution a joy to watch. His missile of a pass to Johnson in the latter stages that ultimately turned out to be an assist was mouth watering and it’s that mix of grit and guile that will serve Liverpool well against high flying City. The combination of Luis Suarez and former Citizen Craig Bellamy also worked well and their pace in behind the defence will be key to unlocking a rigid back four.
They’ll need to be as aggressive as possible to get the better of City who sit five points clear at the top of the Premier League after winning 11 of their 12 games so far this season. Roberto Mancini’s side have swept away all in front of them and made easy work of Newcastle last week maintaining their unbeaten record at the expense of the Magpies. It’s been a fairytale start to the season for City fans who must continually rub their eyes in exasperation at their league position considering just 12 years ago they were plying their trade in the old Division Two. Now they are leading the top-flight ahead of rivals United and looking on course to win the league for the first time in their history. Credit must go to Mancini for getting the best out of the likes of David Silva, Sergio Aguero, Vincent Kompany, Nigel de Jong and the moody Mario Balotelli. Many thought so many stars in one dressing room would be a recipe for disaster but it’s been quite the opposite with the millionaire’s forming a tight knit community inside the Etihad walls. Perhaps they have developed a love for the club that parallels that of local lad Micah Richards who continues to shine in the presence of some of the world’s best footballers. The right back was the subject of much debate over his exclusion from the England squad a few weeks ago although he didn’t harm his chances of a call-up next time with a domineering display against the Magpies last week. Richards ruled the right side of the field and even weighed in with a goal to get supporters waxing lyrical over him once again. His displays this season have been just one of the plethora of highlights already accumulated and Mancini will be expecting more of the same against Liverpool this week.
Liverpool – 6th
Last Five: Won 2-1 v Chelsea (A), Drew 0-0 v Swansea (H), Won 2-0 v West Brom (A), Drew 1-1 v Norwich (H), Drew 1-1 v Manchester United (H)
Potential Starting X11: 25. P. Reina [C] 2. G. Johnson 5. D. Agger 37. M. Skrtel 3. J. Enrique 11. M. Rodriguez 26. C. Adam* 21. Lucas 18. D. Kuyt 7. L. Suarez 39. C. Bellamy
Injury News: Dalglish has no new injuries to worry about with captain Gerrard the only player currently in the Anfield treatment room.
Key Player: Charlie Adam
Since signing from Blackpool in the summer the Scot has gone from strength to strength at Anfield putting in a series of top draw performances in the heart of midfield. Adam has a devastating mix of grace and tenacity that can see him barreling into tackles one minute and picking out a perfect 60-yard pass the next. His quality on the ball will be key to unlocking a City defence that has looked solid all season long.
Liverpool are unbeaten in their last eight against City at Anfield and haven’t tasted defeat at the hands of the league leaders since they were beaten 2-1 in May 2003.
Manchester City – 1st
Last Five: Won 3-1 v Newcastle (H), Won 3-2 v QPR (A)Won, 3-1 v Wolves (H), Won 6-1 v Manchester United (A), Won 4-1 v Aston Villa (H)
Potential Starting X11: 25. J. Hart 2. M. Richards* 4. V. Kompany 6. J. Lescott 13. A. Kolarov 34. N. De Jong 42. Y. Toure 21. D. Silva 19. S. Nasri 16. S. Aguero 10. E. Dzeko
Injury News: Mancini has a fully fit squad to choose from with Owen Hargreaves still out as he continues to build up his fitness ahead of the new year.
Key Player: Micah Richards
It’s been a storming start to the season for the right back who has produced a number of buccaneering performances from right back ending up with supporters calling for him to return to the England squad. Richards has upped the level of his game to match his illustrious teammates and City are reaping the benefits. His power and pace down the right flank has Mancini’s side an extra dimension and you can regularly find him darting past whoever is occupying the advanced wingers position.
Match Fact: City have only managed to win once in 14 Premier League visits to Anfield dating back to 1992 and go into this game without a victory on Merseyside in eight years.
Last Time at Anfield
Premier League 11 April 2011
Liverpool 3-0 Manchester City
Carroll, 13, 35. Kuyt 34.
Referee: Mark Halsey
Liverpool’s win over Chelsea lasts week will have served as a huge confidence boost after supporters got on the players backs following home draws against promoted sides Norwich and Swansea. Coming up against City will be a huge test for Dalglish and his squad and it will paint a picture as to whether they are capable of mounting a challenge for the top four. The visitors look unbeatable at the moment but a mid-week Champions League trip to Italy will certainly force Mancini to tinker with his squad again. They’ve been prolific on the road this season have yet to lose a game on their travels which makes them favourites or this game despite the fact Liverpool are yet to lose at Anfield.