Manchester City vs. Liverpool – 5:30pm local time on Saturday, November 21, 2015 at Etihad Stadium
$1.67 at CrownBet.com
Table position: 1st
League form: W W D W D
$5.50 at William Hill
Table position: 10th
League form: D D D W L
$4 at www.Bet365.com
Last five EPL meetings
Liverpool 2-1 Man City
Man City 3-1 Liverpool
Liverpool 3-2 Man City
Man City 2-1 Liverpool
Man City 2-2 Liverpool
MANCHESTER City may be top of the 2015-16 English Premier League table, but they haven’t really looked like title favourites over the last few weeks.
After racking up 11 goals in consecutive league games against Newcastle United and Bournemouth, the Citizens have managed only two successful strikes from their last three outings – both of which came in a scratchy 2-1 win over Norwich City.
They will be especially disappointed with their most recent result: a goalless stalemate against Aston Villa, who came into that fixture with only four points to their name.
But City’s fortunes could well improve with the impending return of Sergio Aguero, who is tipped to jump straight into the starting lineup after six weeks out with a hamstring injury.
The Argentine striker’s inclusion would be a blessing for Raheem Sterling, who will surely cop plenty of attention from the Liverpool defence – and the visiting fans – after leaving Anfield in a big-money move during the English summer.
The simmering bitterness over that transfer was recently stoked by Sterling’s agent, Aidy Ward, who said his client had improved vastly since moving to Eastlands.
Liverpool legend John Aldridge has insisted there is only one way to respond to such jibes: to shut the England international out of the game this Saturday.
“The main issue is how Liverpool handle Sterling on the pitch this weekend,” the former Ireland striker said in the Liverpool Echo newspaper.
“Forget what his agent says, they’ve just got to mark him out of the game.
“It’ll be tough. For all his faults, he’s still a quality player, and he’ll be full of confidence after some decent performances of late.
“You imagine he would feel he has a point to prove to the Liverpool fans, who will give him a cool reception on the night.
“It’s up to whoever is marking him – and I hope it’s Nathaniel Clyne – to make sure he’s kept silent at the Etihad. If he can manage it, then we will have a chance.”
For their part, the Reds will be looking to bounce back after suffering a disappointing home defeat to Crystal Palace in their last fixture before the international break.
Liverpool have shown gradual improvement since Jurgen Klopp replaced Brendan Rodgers as manager in October, but pundits and punters alike will expect that to start translating into solid results sooner rather than later.
The recent 3-1 win at Chelsea was a promising indicator of what we might see more often once this Anfield outfit settles into its stride, but consistent scoreboard pressure has eluded Klopp and company thus far.
They have also developed an unhappy knack of conceding goals from set pieces this term – something City’s highly capable central defenders could exploit, according to Aldridge.
“The likes of Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi are a big threat at corners, and City will surely look to exploit Liverpool’s known weakness in that area,” he said.
“Hopefully, they will have worked on the issue on the training ground this week.”
The Reds could be handed a huge boost with the return of Daniel Sturridge, who has declared himself “fit and ready” after missing Liverpool’s last seven matches with a knee problem.
“I’m fit and ready to go and it’s going to be a great time for me,” Sturridge said at the launch of the Liverpool FC Signature Collection this week.
“It’s been great under the new manager. I’ve been back training for the past couple of days and I was training when he first arrived.
“It’s an exciting time to be at the club and I’m enjoying working with him and the style of football. It’s important for us to understand what he wants us to do.”
Liverpool are presently mired in mid-table, having dropped to 10th after the loss to Palace, but Sturridge insisted the 2015-16 Premier League race remained wide open.
“I was on the outside but it was great to see the boys win at Chelsea,” he added.
“We had a disappointing result last time out against Palace but it’s important to move on.
“The Premier League is the best league in the world in terms of competitiveness. There are teams up there this season you wouldn’t have expected.
“It’s up for grabs this season, there isn’t a real favourite. It will come down to who can be the most consistent.”
Manchester City team news
Wilfried Bony has a hamstring injury, so City boss Manuel Pellegrini may have no choice but to start Kun Aguero this weekend.
There will be no such rush with David Silva (foot) or Samir Nasri (hamstring), as the likes of Sterling, Kevin de Bruyne and Jesus Navas offer plenty of in-form options in the wide areas.
Vincent Kompany should start despite picking up a minor calf strain on international duty with Belgium, while Pablo Zabaleta could make the bench as he returns from a medial ligament injury.
Missing altogether will be England midfielder Fabian Delph, who is out indefinitely with a muscular problem.
Possible Man City XI: Hart; Sagna, Otamendi, Kompany, Kolarov; Fernando, Toure, Fernandinho; De Bruyne, Aguero, Sterling.
Liverpool team news
The Reds have had a full recovery room over recent weeks, but they could get a few big names back on Saturday.
Danny Sturridge is a big chance to return to the matchday squad, while Jordon Ibe (knee), James Milner (hamstring) and Kolo Toure (hamstring) are also expected to pass fit.
However, it could be a week too soon for Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson, who is edging towards full fitness after several months out with a metatarsal fracture.
Mamadou Sakho is out for the rest of 2015 with a knee injury, which will give Dejan Lovren a chance to reclaim his spot in defence, while Danny Ings and Joe Gomez (both ACL) won’t feature again this season.
Possible Liverpool XI: Mignolet; Clyne, Skrtel, Lovren, Moreno; Lucas, Can; Milner, Coutinho, Firmino; Benteke.
– Match to end in a draw ($4 at Bet365.com)
– Both teams to score ($1.75 at CrownBet.com)
– Correct score 2-2 ($17 at WilliamHill.com)
The head says Man City, the heart says anyone but City, but the gut is going for a draw at the Etihad.
Liverpool don’t have a great record in this fixture of late, with no league wins at Eastlands since 2008 – the same year the Abu Dhabi Group took control of Manchester’s blue half.
But while the Citizens have won five out of six home games in EPL 2015-16, bagging 18 goals in the process, West Ham United proved they can be quietened on their own patch.
Expect plenty of action at either end, as every one of the last seven league meetings between these two has produced three goals or more.
Man City first goalscorer bets
Sergio Aguero ($4.30 at Sportsbet)
Even short of match practice, Aguero is an obvious choice if he starts as predicted. He is probably the best striker in the Premier League, so why wouldn’t you back him to open the scoring?
Raheem Sterling ($7 at William Hill)
The idea of Sterling scoring against his old club makes him a very tempting prospect indeed. Indeed, with four EPL goals to his name this season, the 20-year-old England winger is a solid choice even without the extra theatrical element.
Liverpool first goalscorer odds
Philippe Coutinho ($13 at Sportsbet)
He might not have had the most consistent season to date, but there’s no denying that Coutinho has taken over from Steven Gerrard as Liverpool’s match winner. Reds fans will be hoping the Brazilian can produce something like the superb brace he netted at Chelsea last month.
Christian Benteke ($8.50 at William Hill)
Benteke is another high-profile Red who has endured a mixed start to the campaign, but he looks a little more at ease under Klopp’s new regime. He was extremely effective off the bench in that win over Chelsea, and he should start ahead of the fit-again Sturridge here.
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