Liverpool v Manchester City
Manchester City visit Anfield today looking for a win to increase their gap at the top of the Premier League to seven points.
Liverpool go into the game in seventh place with every team above them, other than today’s opponents, having played yesterday. Any points for Liverpool today would see them move up into sixth place. A draw would move Dalglish’s side ahead of Arsenal on goal difference; a win would see them level on points with fifth-placed Chelsea but unless it’s a win by seven goals Chelsea would still have the better goal difference.
Goal difference is unlikely to be a worry for the side from Manchester this season, they go into this one having scored 31 more than they’ve conceded after just 12 games. One of those games was against their neighbours United, who were on the wrong end of an embarrassing 6-1 drubbing. Another was against Spurs, one of the teams above Liverpool, who were on the wrong end of a 5-1 defeat against City just a few weeks before embarrassing Liverpool 4-0.
Liverpool haven’t lost a game or conceded more than once in a match since that day in North London, with Manchester United and Chelsea amongst the teams they’ve faced.
For the first time in many years Liverpool’s Jamie Carragher was left out of a side when fit and with nothing to rest for last weekend against Chelsea. Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger had performed well in Carragher’s absence through injury and Dalglish made the decision to leave Carragher out. It’s the kind of decision that Kenny will make without caring what might be made of it by those whose focus isn’t on what is best for Liverpool FC. In the past such a decision would have been used to stir up more trouble but the respect Kenny has from the vast majority of Liverpool supporters means that nothing more is read into the decision than it being a case of Kenny picking the players he felt were right for that game.
Carragher has said since that he accepts the decision but he’d have found it difficult to say anything else. He may well get a recall today but Kenny isn’t one to pick teams on sentiment or on how good or important a player was in the past, much the same as he isn’t one to pick a team based on the transfer fee paid for that player. The subs Liverpool brought on last weekend cost Liverpool over £70m in total and that is still a lot of money for Liverpool. Of course one of the subs Chelsea brought on subsidised much of that spending.
Who plays today also depends of course on what kind of tactics Dalglish and his staff feel are best employed against a club that will be hurting following defeat in Europe in midweek. City have lost one other game in Europe this season, a defeat they followed with a 4-0 drubbing of Blackburn. It won’t be Kenny’s style to be worried too much about what City can do, instead he’ll focus on what Liverpool can do and he has a number of options. Craig Bellamy played a starring role against Chelsea and would be up against his former club if selected today. Andy Carroll scored twice in the corresponding fixture last season, a reverse of the 3-0 defeat at the City of Manchester Stadium under Roy Hodgson, but may well find himself on the bench again this week. It’s difficult to imagine Luis Suarez not starting but Dirk Kuyt and Maxi Rodriguez might not get the chance to play two consecutive games, even though the former scored Liverpool’s opener last weekend.
Steven Gerrard and Jack Robinson are the only players listed by Liverpool as unavailable but Kenny also has one eye on Tuesday’s trip to London to take on Chelsea yet again. Those that don’t make the starting eleven today are likely to find themselves relied on to help Liverpool make it to the semi-finals of the Carling Cup.
City’s striker Mario Balotelli had been suffering from a fever but is over it now and ready to be picked, unlike Carlos Tevez who isn’t injured but is now reported to be pushing for a move to AC Milan and isn’t expected to play for his current club again.
Liverpool have drawn more than they’d like at home this season but since Kenny came back they have only lost once in their 17 home games. Stats, for what they’re worth, suggest Liverpool should win because City have only won once in the last 30 years at Anfield (back in 2003) and only twice in the last 55 years. City didn’t have extremely wealthy owners for most of those years though of course.
Kenny Dalglish pre-match interview:
Liverpool v Manchester City
Date: Sunday, 27 November
Kick-off: 4pm GMT
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Disciplinary 2011-12: Referee: 9 games, 30 yellows, 4 reds. LFC: 20 yellows, 2 reds. MCFC: 14 yellows, 1 red.