One good Europa League performance against Belarusia’s third best team FC Gomel was enough to raise the hopes of many Liverpool fans. One mildly unfortunate loss to West Brom in their Premier League opener lowered them right back down again.
Getting back in to the win column with victory over Hearts in their midweek Europa League qualifier did little to whip up any positive fervour. A team of largely second-string and youth players struggled to impose themselves upon their Scottish counterparts. Which shouldn’t have been a surprise.
The manager has talked repeatedly of how big a task he, his staff and the players have on their hands to improve Liverpool’s fortunes to the point where they can call themselves a top four team again. They have no right to beat anyone and in the context of where the team is and which players were on the pitch, beating Hearts away from home is a good result and should be viewed as such.
We always respect every opponent. We’re not that good to be that complacent, to be honest. We’ve got an awful lot of work to do… – Brendan Rodgers
For Sunday’s game at Anfield the players who didn’t travel to Gorgie on Thursday will be back in contention against Manchester City. Luis Suarez, Steven Gerrard, Martin Skrtel, Lucas Leiva, Glen Johnson and possibly Jose Enrique could all start. Plus Andy Carroll should at least make the bench if fit. Presuming he hasn’t been sold by then he’ll be a useful option to take on the towering City centre-halves Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott if needed.
Being at home with a near full-strength team and playing against the defending champions guarantees a performance which will be leagues ahead of their showing at the Hawthornes.
It’s almost a cliché to talk of how Liverpool perform better against the bigger sides but in recent times it’s difficult to deny. Last season the Reds lost twice against Fulham but in seven games against the two Manchester sides they lost just twice.
It’s not conclusive but it does help to make a good case for backing Liverpool to win at 2/1. Particularly with City looking far from convincing in their opening win over Southampton.
Roberto Mancini was as candid as Rodgers in assessing his side’s performance against the newly promoted Saints. A game in which City had to come back from 2-1 down with less than 20 minutes left on the clock.
We played a bad game, we were not a team. We were 10 players that tried to score. We showed our character but we didn’t play as a team. – Roberto Mancini
The Italian will have been happy with the win but not the disjointed performance. He also won’t have been too happy to lose Sergio Aguero to a knee injury.
However, unlike Liverpool who will struggle to replace the suspended Daniel Agger, City have plenty of willing and able options to play up front. Carlos Tevez is the most obvious candidate and the Argentine is certain to start at Anfield. Whether Mancini decides to play Edin Dzeko alongside him or go for just one up front is uncertain but both men got on the scoresheet against Southampton.
In the goalscorer betting markets Tevez is a slight favourite to score first at 11/2 ahead of Luis Suarez at 6/1. The Uruguyan will probably score the first goal now that it’s been mentioned but going on how profligate he can be in front of goal, Tevez looks to offer more value.
One of the key areas in this game will be the Liverpool defence. If Jamie Carragher starts, as he is likely to do, then the Reds could struggle to contain the pace of the City attack. The Liverpool legend looked off the pace when he came on against West Brom and he could be a seriously weak link at the back. A lot will come down to how well Lucas can protect his defenders.
Although City didn’t play brilliantly as a team against Southampton the players look to be playing well individually. If Mancini can get them working together then Brendan Rodgers will have a task on his hands to avoid losing his first two league games in charge of the famed club.
This hasn’t happened to a Reds manager since way back in 1959 when some guy called Shankly lost his first two league games in charge. And look where he ended up.