The early kick-off welcomes back top flight football following the international break and both sides were clearly in need of a rest. Liverpool’s season has already unraveled at the seams and, while Rafa Benitez’s men have been toiling both domestically and in the Champions League, Saturday’s opponents too have found life tough going of late.
City’s five consecutive Premier League draws have been far from ideal for Mark Hughes and his side, they have title aspirations themselves, but it pales into insignificance in comparison with the woes at Anfield and Rafa must turn things around quickly. >
Five defeats already for the Reds, unheard of in November, ended their challenge for very top honours before it had even begun and the Spanish boss must once again do without virtually half of his first choice XI.
The players Benitez has to call upon in the absence of the likes of Glen Johnson, Albert Riera, Yossi Benayoun and, crucially, Fernando Torres are well below the required standard while Fabio Aurelio and Daniel Agger are also both doubtful for Saturday. >
The one positive for Benitez this weekend is the return of Steven Gerrard to action but the England midfielder is certainly not fully fit, by his own admission, and is sure to have one eye, at least, on the massive clash against Debrecen on Tuesday.
Liverpool cannot afford to miss out on Champions League football in any season but if they were to slip out of the top four then Hughes’ side appear ideally positioned to take their place.
Just one defeat in the campaign so far, that dramatic 4-3 reversal at Old Trafford, illustrates just how difficult City are to beat and it should be remembered that they have a game in hand over all of their main rivals. A win for the visitors on Saturday would take them four points clear of Liverpool, having played a match less, but I’m sure they’d settle for a draw and that appears the most likely outcome.
I’m amazed that Liverpool can be opposed at a shade of odds-on this weekend, I’m convinced the hosts don’t win this fixture more than 50 per cent of the time, and City’s recent training camp in Abu Dhabi could have done them the world of good.
The majority of Hughes’ squad were present, as opposed to being on internationally duty, and I get the impression that they will rarely fail to show their true form in the big games this season. This is certainly a big game, and one in which they should avoid defeat with only Martin Petrov a certain absentee.
3pts Lay Liverpool (vs. Man City) @ 1.98 Betfair