The FourFourTwo Preview: Man City vs Liverpool
Top of the table and statistically the league's two most exciting teams: this one should be a cracker. The 17 games involving Manchester City so far this season have seen 71 goals at a quite incredible rate of 4.2 per game.
Liverpool, meanwhile, are top of the league, the division's second top goal-getters, and boast a player in Luis Suarez who alone has scored more goals than more than half of the teams in the league, including Spurs. 0-0? No chance.
MAN CITY FORM
- Fulham 2-4 Man City (Prem)
- Leicester 1-3 Man City (LC)
- Man City 6-3 Arsenal (Prem)
- Bayern 2-3 Man City (CL)
- So'ton 1-1 Man City (Prem)
- Liverpool 3-1 Cardiff (Prem)
- Spurs 0-5 Liverpool (Prem)
- Liverpool 4-1 West Ham (Prem)
- Liverpool 5-1 Norwich (Prem)
- Hull 3-1 Liverpool (Prem)
The game is not just a nice little belated Christmas present for football fans, though. This one means something. Manuel Pellegrini's men have been unbeatable at home so far this season - the Etihad executioners - and sit just one point behind Liverpool who, despite Brendan Rodgers' clever protests to the contrary, are definite title contenders.
City's defence has been far from brilliant in the absence of Matija Nastasic, and so the question remains: can they (or anyone for that matter) stop Suarez? Or will City's 100 per cent home record continue regardless of the Uruguayan genius? We'll find out on Boxing Day. It should be a lot of fun.
City have doubts over the fitness of Nastasic (calf) and Pablo Zabaleta (hamstring). Sergio Aguero's continued absence is a major blow, while Stevan Jovetic and Micah Richards are also out injured.
Liverpool are without Steven Gerrard, Jose Enrique and Daniel Sturridge. Rodgers might be tempted to pick the same XI for a third consecutive game after two highly convincing performances against Spurs and Cardiff.
Key battle: Man City's defence vs Luis Suarez
It's going to take more than one defender to stop the man who right now is one of Europe's most in-form players. No, this will require a team effort. Vincent Kompany is back for City, and when he's not scoring brilliantly slapstick own goals he's a vital component of the back-line. Martin Demichelis was also not as bad against Fulham as made out on Match of the Day, completing 94% of his passes, winning 100% of his 5 aerial battles and making a game-high 14 clearances.
Nevertheless, Suarez is Suarez and some of the things he is doing at the moment defy logic. The man is in unbelievable form, scoring 10 goals in his last four games and 19 this season overall. The positions he takes up show a player who drifts nonchalantly all across the pitch, and so he won't have a direct defensive rival per se. City only won 56% of their tackles against Fulham, which will concern their manager.
Do Kompany or Demichelis pick him up and stay tight or do they leave it to the defensive midfielders? Do the full-backs occupy Suarez when he drifts wide into their airspace or do they leave him alone? These are questions Pellegrini will be addressing in his team meetings and City will need an answer if they're to prevent the Uruguayan from hitting what would be an astonishing 20 league goals before the New Year.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Man City 2-2 L'pool (Prem, Feb 13)
- L'pool 2-2 Man City (Prem, Aug 12)
- L'pool 2-2 Man City (LC, Jan 12)
- Man City 0-1 L'pool (LC, Jan 12)
- Man City 3-0 L'pool (Prem, Jan 12)
Rodgers and Pellegrini will meet for the first time. Both have a commitment to open, attractive football and so you imagine some mutual admiration will be on show as they share a post-match glass of Christmas claret.
TIPS & TRENDS
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Facts and figures
- This is the clash between the two highest scoring sides in the league this season.
- City have scored in their last 58 home league matches.
- City have won each of their home games by at least 2 goals, scoring 4 or more on 5 occasions.
- Despite Liverpool’s thrashing of Spurs, they have won just once in 5 away league matches.
- Suarez has played a part in 16 of Liverpool’s last 17 goals, scoring 9 and providing 7 assists.
- There have been at least 3 goals in 17 of Liverpool’s previous 20 league matches.
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Even without Aguero City are formidable at home, but with Liverpool full of confidence a fascinating encounter awaits. City edge it in a thriller. 4-3.