Writer: Johnny Baguette
Date:Friday February 20 2009
Sunday, 22 February 2009
City's no show capitulation at Portsmouth means that we go to the first of our upcoming 'Big Four Away Days' an uncomfortable 8 points clear of the relegation zone with as tough a fixture run in as they come, affording little margin for error.
City are going to have to play with verve and urgency and defend as a unit if we are to get anything out of what is essentially a daunting trip to Merseyside.
Liverpool's challenge for the title needs no introduction and the rags will certainly be hoping City can defy the odds with a win. We can certainly expect to be facing a pumped up Liverppol side.
'The recent rest was good for us. We had been playing too many games in a row and so it was important for the players to rest and enjoy some time with their families. We need to be ready for the important weeks ahead.
'We know the City game is massive for us and that's why we have to concentrate totally on it and prepare properly.
'City are scoring goals but also conceding some so clearly they are a dangerous team. They have good players with the likes of Robinho and Bellamy so offensively we have to be aware.'
Dirk Kuyt on Craig Bellamy:
'He's difficult to play against because he has a lot of qualities. He's really quick but can also finish. Maybe people haven't seen him as much over the last three years but we've seen recently how good he is.'
"It's always a test going to Anfield, but we will give it a good go. They will have to come out and try to win the game, so hopefully that will leave spaces in behind that we can exploit.
"They have been frustrated by other teams at Anfield. We have to make sure we have a platform to win the game ourselves.
"We need to be nice and solid, but be a bit better at set-plays as well as seeing games out to the end, because we have the goals in us, as we showed against Copenhagen. We have to show all of that against Liverpool.
"When teams come out and have a go at us, we will always be a threat going the other way. We have struggled away at times when the other team doesn't come out - we end up like the home team and get caught by the sucker punch.
"Liverpool are real challengers this year - they have been in the top four for a few years but not really been near to challenging for the title. Whether they run Manchester United close this year, we will have to wait and see.
"Liverpool have made a better fist of it, and maybe that has come with less squad rotation. They have been criticised for changing the team in the past, but this year they haven't, and as a consequence they are having a better challenge."
Fernando Torres and Kuyt were both rested and used as scoring subs in their 3-2 win at Pompey but both will start on sunday.
Xabi Alonso is suspended.
The big question is whether or not Benitez will play the hamstrung Steven Gerrard against City or hold him back for the Wednesday night Champions league clash with Real Madrid.
'Nando' is on fire. Danger with a capital D and our very own 'Captain D' and co had better be on top of their collective defensive game in order to deal with him.
We'll miss the suspended SWP's tenacity on Merseyside and it's a fair bet that Elano will return to the side for another bite at rebuilding his Blues career.
Otherwise, no major changes are forseen from the currently strongest possible City side that drew 2-2 in Copenhagen.
Valeri Bojinov continues his comeback but will not feature here alongside other long term absentees Michael Johnson, Benjani and Martin Petrov.
Robbie is coming under increasing scrutiny with every game that passes. He needs a goal for City to reignite his passion and confidence. Where better place to do that than in one of 'The Big Four's' backyards?
How about this? City travel to Anfield in search of a 1,200th victory in top-flight football.
The Mickeys are unbeaten in 14 Premier League matches and are yet to lose at home in any competition this season; of course, The Citizens have only won one away league game all season, and have lost the last two on the road outside of the UEFA 2-2er in Copenhagen.
Liverpool are unbeaten in seven Premier League matches against City, and vying for a third successive victory.
1. City are 10 points down on the same stage last season, when in the top seven.
2. City are without a victory in 10 Premier League games on the road; drawn four and lost six since defeating Sunderland 0-3 at the Stadium of Light on 31 August.
3. We've lost eight of the last 11 against 'Big Four' clubs; our only successes being victories at the rags on 10 February and home to The Gooners on 22 November last year.
4. We've won four of seven Premier League games; lost two of the last three.
P Dowd: 102 Yellow and only 4 Red cards and counting for the Staffordshire card flourisher in 32 fixtures across all competitions this season. He reffed the season's opener at Villa and our draw at Hull.
I see absolutely no point whatsoever in City going to Anfield to try and contain Liverpool with a safety first approach because this City squad simply cannot do that.
The side should be sent out to play to strengths, pass and move rapidly, use width and get behind defenders.
Based upon recent evidence, our almost total inability to win corners or deal with set pieces for and against could lead to a hiding here, unless Mark Hughes and his backroom staff can rectify the wrongs so evident again in Denmark inside 3 days. Prove me wrong, Blues.
Liverpool 3 City 1
LAST SEASON's CORRESPONDING FIXTURE:
Liverpool 1-0 Manchester City
4 May 2008 - Ref: Mark Halsey Liverpool scorer: Torres 58
Thu 26 Feb 19:45 UEFA Cup FC Copenhagen Home
Sun 01 Mar 12:30 Barclays Premier League West Ham United Away
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