The 2013-14 English Premier League season is underway! During the season Sports Unbiased will select our EPL Match of the Week, where we will preview, break down, and predict some of the biggest matches in the Premiership.
LIVERPOOL vs MANCHESTER CITY
PREVIEW: League leaders Liverpool will host Manchester City at Anfield on Sunday in a match many believe will decide the title this season. Liverpool have been the hottest club in the Premier League since the turn of the calendar year. A nine-match winning streak has seen them climb to the top of the league. They now control their own destiny: should they win their remaining five league matches, it will become champions for the first time since 1990. But Manchester City will definitely have something to say about that. They are just four points back of Liverpool having played two fewer matches, and like the Merseysiders they too control their own destiny (a draw would hurt Liverpool far more than it would City). The atmosphere at Anfield should be intense come Sunday, with so much on the line for both clubs.
MANAGERS: Even despite their position at the top of the table, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers continues to downplay his team’s title aspirations. What should not be downplayed is the work he has done this season, turning Liverpool into title contenders in his second year in charge (ahead of schedule one might add). He has shown himself to be one of the best young managers in football – a brilliant offensive mind with a great ability to game plan as well as making adjustments during a match. City manager Manuel Pellegrini is no slouch himself. He has done what he was brought to City to do, which was to turn them into more of an offensive-minded club. City has had to deal with the pressure of being title favorites all season long and Pellegrini has them in a great position to win their second Premier League title in three years.
FORWARDS: Even though these are the two highest scoring clubs in the league, the goals are distributed quite differently when comparing Liverpool and Manchester City. Liverpool gets the bulk of their goals up front thanks to the SAS duo of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge. Suarez (who should easily take home all Player of the Year awards this season) leads the league in goals scored with 29. His strike partner is second on the list with 20 goals. Suarez also leads the league in assists. Moreover, they seem to play well off each other, with each being in sync with what the other is doing. City have more depth up front than Liverpool, and the possible return of top striker Sergio Aguero should even things up front. But it is hard to go against what Liverpool’s dynamic duo have done this season.
MIDFIELDERS: At the start of the season, this area would have been a huge advantage for Manchester City. But Liverpool have increased in leaps and bounds as the season has progressed. Young players such as Raheem Sterling, Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson have taken their games to a higher level under Rodgers, and it helps having the skipper Steven Gerrard healthy and embracing his new deeper role in midfield. He has been the perfect quarterback for his club. But still, it isn’t enough to rank them ahead of City. Yaya Toure is one of the best all-around midfielders in football, and David Silva is one of the top playmakers in the league. And of course, City have much more talent available to them with players such as James Milner, Samir Nasri, Fernandinho, to name a few.
Advantage: Manchester City
DEFENDERS: In fairness to Liverpool, their defense has been much more solid recently. The return of first Daniel Agger (who has since been injured) and Mamadou Sakho to partner with Martin Skrtel in central midfield has been a great boost, as it means having veteran Kolo Toure on the bench. They have also been aided with a return to form from right-back Glen Johnson as well as the emergence of young local Jon Flanagan at left-back. Still the defense remains an Achilles’ heel, unlike City who have conceded the second fewest amount of goals in the league at 29. Just like with the midfielders, City just have far more talent and depth, lead by captain Vincent Kompany.
Advantage: Manchester City
GOALKEEPERS: After a shaky start to the season, City goalkeeper Joe Hart has reestablished himself as one of the world’s best goalkeepers. The England number one has been in fine form the last several weeks. Simon Mignolet has acquitted himself quite well during his first season as Liverpool keeper. Still, one would feel more confident with Hart than they would the young Belgian.
Advantage: Manchester City
X-FACTORS: Liverpool have turned Anfield into a fortress this season. They have dropped just four points at home. The impressive thing is the manner in which they have done it. Rodgers’ men play at such breakneck pace, attacking in waves and pressuring their opponents into mistakes when they have possession of the ball that matches have been decided as early as half-time. They have scored 48 goals at Anfield and their defense perform much better with just 13 of their 40 goals conceded at home. The home fans have been great all season long as it seems like the energy is transferred from the stands to the pitch. They should provide a fantastic atmosphere come Sunday (particularly with the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster so close to this match). This should worry Manchester City, whose form (particular on offense) dip considerably on the road. Whereas Liverpool have scored just six less goals on the road, that tally drops by 20 for City. Another x-factor in a match of this magnitude is referee Mark Clattenburg. Liverpool fans will remember it was Clattenburg who awarded their side with three penalties as well as a controversial sending off to Manchester United defender Nemanja Vidic in their 3-0 win at Old Trafford (Liverpool have been awarded with the most penalties in the league). England’s top referee Howard Webb was not chosen for this match, continuing a string of low-profile matches since his disastrous showing in the Arsenal-Liverpool FA Cup tie two months ago. The referees have come under intense scrutiny this season. Last week referee Anthony Taylor was widely criticized for his performance during the West Ham – Liverpool match. Another referee, Chris Foy, was also criticized for allowing a Samir Nasri goal against Southampton, when the City player was clearly offside. Could Sunday’s potential title-decider come down to a referee’s blunder? Clattenburg has been one of the better referees in the Premier League this season so it’s likely that the players – and not the referee- will decide this match.
PREDICTION: Some things are just hard to explain other than it was just meant to be. This is the feeling one gets with Liverpool. Everything seems to be breaking right for them. They have been relatively healthy, and so far have not been affected by the pressure of a title race. It would be a great story should Liverpool go on to accomplish the impossible dream and ending this 24-year old title drought and it seems like that is the story that is being written by the football gods. When you add the fact that City are not as potent a goal-scoring club away from Manchester, and the atmosphere (which will no doubt be one of the most electric we’ll see all season long) everything looks set up for a storybook result for the Merseyside club.
Final Score: Liverpool 4 (Gerrard, Saurez x 2, Sturridge) – Manchester City 2 (Dzeko, Toure)
Who will win our EPL Match of the Week?
- Liverpool (0%, 0 Votes)
- Manchester City (0%, 0 Votes)
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