On Wednesday Liverpool have a chance to put another dent in Manchester City’s silverware ambitions. Today they have just been beaten by a Manchester United team that didn’t seem to be on top form at times.
City missing Yaya Toure to the African Cup Of Nations which, if you remember the most recent battle at The Etihad, can only be considered a good omen for Liverpool. Gerrard has been slowly getting minutes under his belt to gain that fitness for him to eventually start. It seems that we have been missing a creative talent in midfield. Opposite Liverpool on Wednesday will be a Man City team that have those players with qualities in abundance.
While Liverpool may lack certain flair qualities they can match Man City and even outdo their work ethic. Liverpool have hungry players that want to prove they belong in a top team and with Euro 2012 around the corner now is the time for some of the players to step it up and get notice by the international managers.
The battle, as they always say, will be won or lost in midfield. I imagine Man City will line up with a 4-4-2 formation with fluid and slick passing to get the ball to the Liverpool penalty area. The question for Kenny Dalglish will be: Can the players press the opposition into making small errors and forfeiting possession enough for the team to take advantage?
With Suarez out and the height of the Man City defence it seems inevitable that Carroll will get another run up front but will he play as a lone striker. With the first leg at the Etihad it seems sensible for Kenny to pick a 4-5-1 formation to flood the midfield. The wide men will have to remember to get crosses in for Carroll to attack. There can be no finesse and skill when linking up with a striker of Carroll’s ability that seems to be attacking the ball with his head. If Gerrard starts he will be given some freedom to play a similar role to David Silva, roaming and being given license to get on the ball and dictate the way we play.
Hart will return for Manchester City in goal and I expect Pepe Reina to continue in goal for Liverpool. While Man City have swapped keepers for today’s FA Cup game Kenny felt he did not have that luxury. Maybe it was the ideal time to test Reina’s nerves and handling skills considering the howler he made against City last week.
Most of Man City’s starting eleven today will re-appear against Liverpool in midweek. Liverpool’s bench had Skrtel, Henderson, Downing, Adam and Carroll. At least four of these should start in midweek. If Kenny feels Gerrard is not ready to start then expect all five to start. Carroll and Downing have been criticised widely this season so the goals on Friday v Oldham should provide some much needed confidence.
With the busy winter period and Mancini proclaiming he is short of players it seems that he knows who he wants, and will play, and who he will freeze out and refuse to select. If Liverpool are to beat Man City at the Etihad without Suarez now would seem like the best timing in the calendar.
By Ash WIlliams
Follow me on Twitter @A_Will83