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  • Manchester City v Liverpool preview

City desperate to keep title heat on United

ESPN staff
February 1, 2013
It's Edin Dzeko time for Manchester City as they face Liverpool in a must-win matche at Etihad stadium © PA Photos
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By the time Manchester City kick-off against Liverpool at 4.00pm on Sunday, Manchester United will most likely be 10 points ahead in the league table.

The Red Devils have an away fixture against 12th-placed Fulham on Saturday, live on ESPN, and the Londoners, despite a 3-1 win over West Ham in midweek, will find it tough against Ferguson's men.

Needless to say for Roberto Mancini's men, a slip-up of any sort against the Reds and odds on their winning back-to-back Premier League titles will lengthen considerably, in their own minds as much as with the bookies.

Fans will rightly point out that their team shrugged off an eight-point disadvantage to United to be crowned champions for the first time in 44 years last season. But, it should be well noted, Robin van Persie was then an Arsenal player.

Form

City are unbeaten and yet to concede a goal in 2013 but they were unable to put away bottom club QPR on Tuesday in a 0-0 draw at Loftus Road.

Mario Balotelli's move to AC Milan had been announced only hours before kick-off but that cannot have had any telling effect on the players' performance - the Italian has been a peripheral figure, on the pitch, for most of the season.

Liverpool seem to have goals in them once again and Luis Suarez is no longer the sole threat for opposition defences. They will need their new multi-pronged attack too if they are to beat the champions, who have only let in 19 goals in the league this campaign - the meanest record in the division.

January signing Daniel Sturridge's understanding with Suarez is increasing game-on-game and with the returning form of Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing, manager Brendan Rodgers will feel confident his team can put City on the ropes when they run hot.

But despite the increased optimism surrounding Anfield at the moment, their January form was poor; three losses, one draw and only two wins.

Team news

City captain and defensive rock Vincent Kompany is a doubt for the match as his calf injury persists. Micah Richards' knee could rule him out while brothers Yaya and Kolo Toure are away at the Africa Cup of Nations with Ivory Coast.

For Liverpool, Jose Enrique, Pepe Reina and Glen Johnson all returned to the side in the 2-2 draw with Arsenal on Wednesday and will be able to contribute more on Sunday.

Head-to-head battles

  • Joe Hart v Pepe Reina

    Two of the league's best stoppers face off

  • David Silva v Stewart Downing

    A year ago this wasn't a contest, it is an intriguing one now

  • Edin Dzeko v Luis Suarez

    The hard worker v the poster boy

One to watch

Edin Dzeko was not selected to start against QPR and was thrown on halfway through the second half only to immediately show why he should have started. The champions' attack flows when the Bosnian heads the line and he will be expecting to start, and expected to perform, against Liverpool.

His 11 goals are exactly half the number Suarez has netted for the Reds this season but the Uruguayan does not have to compete with Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez for a starting spot.

Key battle

Gareth Barry has been quietly ticking City over in the midfield this season whilst contributing on the scoresheet. His late, late header to secure the points against Reading in December was a highlight and had Julio Cesar not been at his best on Tuesday night he would have scored an even better goal.

With Reina recently back in the side, a few more long shots are sure to be fired from the former Aston Villa man. Liverpool's Brazilian defensive midfielder Lucas Leiva will have to divide his time between Barry and setting up a roadblock to stop City's in-form man David Silva.

Prediction and bet

Liverpool proved on Tuesday that concentration at the back is a bit of a problem as they allowed Arsenal to erase their two-goal lead in three minutes. City simply do not do that but Luis Suarez can unlock any back-four in the world so the likelihood of a clean sheet for Joe Hart or Reina is very low.

There were four goals when the sides met earlier in the season at Anfield and another thrilling 2-2 draw could well ensue. But we think there will be a winner in this game and because City desperately need the points, they will prevail 2-1, which carries odds of 15/2 bet365.

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