Writer: Gavin Kelley-Day
Date:Saturday August 23 2014
Barclays Premier League
The top two from last season clash on Monday night as runners-up Liverpool visit champions Manchester City in this intriguing early season contest.
Both sides were efficient if unspectacular in wins on the opening weekend and shared the spoils in meetings last term.
Liverpool will be hoping for a better rub of the green this time around after a number of poor decisions contributed to a 2-1 defeat on their last visit to the Etihad on Boxing Day.
Subsequent comments about the standard of refereeing landed Reds boss Brendan Rodgers in hot water.
Rodgers: "If you look at both sets of players, there's lots of invention and creativity in the team. Both teams will be creative and want to score goals.
"We know we need to be compact and solid when we haven't got the ball, we need to be aggressive and press well. That's the nature of our game.
"We know we have the freedom, movement and pace that can hurt teams. We understand it's early on, but it'll be a good game for sure. It's been a great start to the league campaign."
Spain striker Alvaro Negrado, who has been linked with a move away, is the only notable absentee for the hosts courtesy of a groin problem. Pellegrini must decide whether or not to restore fellow forward Sergio Aguero to the starting line-up or continue with Stevan Jovetic, who has shone during pre-season. Elsewhere, Joe Hart is expected to retain the goalkeeping gloves despite the arrival of Willy Caballero and Pellegrini's subsequent failure to name a No.1. Out of the club's other new recruits, only £12m midfielder Fernando is likely to start with defenders Eliaquim Mangala and Bacary Sagna expected to be amongst the substitutes.
Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Demichelis, Kolarov, Fernando, Y. Toure, Nasri, Silva, Aguero, Dzeko.
The 28-year-old was a key component in last season's title triumph, notching 26 goals in all competitions. Such has been his rise from peripheral figure to regular starter, Dzeko was this week rewarded with a new four-year contract. At the moment it seems to be very much a case of who will partner the Bosnia-Hercegovina international, who has five goals in his past five games, up front. The tall striker has good awareness and is equally adept at setting up team mates as putting the ball into the back of the net himself.
Proposed new signing Mario Balotelli hasn't completed his £16m move from AC Milan in time to feature against his old side but Rodgers should have left-back Alberto Moreno and winger Lazar Markovic to call upon for a first time. Midfielder Emre Can is another new face who could make his debut. Defenders Jon Flanagan and Daniel Agger and £25m midfielder Adam Lallana remain sidelined with knee problems. Attacking duo Fabio Borini and Oussama Assaidi are also absent although neither will be considered in the short-term with departures pending.
Mignolet, Johnson, Skrtel, Lovren, Moreno, Gerrard (c), Allen, Henderson, Coutinho, Sterling, Sturridge.
The England international's strike against Southampton last weekend took his tally for the club to a remarkable 36 goals in 50 appearances. With last season's partner in crime, Luis Suarez, now departed, the responsibility on Sturridge has increased significantly but he shows no signs of being overruled. With a new forward imminent, the ex-City and Chelsea frontman will be eager to lay down a marker as the club's unequivocal first choice goal getter.
Liverpool and City have met 162 times in their respective histories and the Merseysiders hold the upper hand overall with 81 wins to 40 and 41 draws. The Reds have scored a total of 293 goals compared to a tally of 212 by the Citizens.
The hosts have scored exactly two goals in each of their last four Barclays Premier League meetings with Liverpool.
Liverpool have conceded as many goals in their last four league trips to the Etihad as they had in the previous 11 (10).
Both City and the visitors won only two of their six games against fellow members of the top four in 2013-14 (including a win apiece against each other).
Sturridge (136 mins) has the fifth best minutes-per-goal rate in Premier League history (minimum 50 goals), ahead of Suarez (139) but behind City's Aguero who tops the list (115).
Michael Oliver is the official appointed to oversee this contest. The Northumberland based whistle blower has shown just three yellow cards in the two games he has refereed so far this season. The 29-year-old has been a part of the Select Group of Referees who oversee Premier League fixtures since 2010 and holds the record for the youngest ever person to officiate a Premier League match (25 years and 182 days old).
This will be a big early test for Rodgers' revamped Liverpool squad but they will enter the game with confidence high and knowing they had the better of the two exciting encounters played last term. With two more of his new signings set to be involved on Monday, the Northern Irishman now appears to have the options at his disposal to compete on all fronts. City will of course be amongst the favourites to retain their crown and will start this match as favourites. Many will be predicting an open encounter but there is a chance, at such a formative stage of the season, that the two teams will air on the side of caution. With the talent on show I still expect goals even if that does prove to be the case.
Vital Liverpool predicts a 2-2 draw
Liverpool - Premier League vs. Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane on Sunday 31st August 2014, kick off 1.30pm BST.
Manchester City - Premier League vs. Stoke City at Etihad Stadium on Saturday 30th August 2014, kick off 3.00pm BST.
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Date:Saturday August 23 2014
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