Manchester City vs. Liverpool. Etihad Stadium, Monday 25 August, 8pm
Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool face the first of two extremely testing away fixtures in a row, with Tottenham away on Sunday after the trip to City.
The Reds are currently a third of the way to replicating last season’s quick start and they will be looking to build on the nervy opening weekend success over Ronald Koeman’s new-look Southampton side with an improved performance and consecutive win that would throw down an early season marker for the rest of the Premier League.
It was vitally important that Liverpool came away from last Sunday’s match with maximum points ahead of two challenging matches, but the Reds travel up the M62 knowing that they can prove to be more than a match for Manuel Pelligrini’s side when thinking back to last season’s thrilling encounters.
The corresponding fixture last season on Boxing Day saw Liverpool undeservedly leave the Etihad empty handed, but also pick up many plaudits after producing a hugely impressive performance in a narrow 2-1 defeat.
Philippe Coutinho slotted the Reds in front after a fantastic move, but City turned the deficit around thanks to goals from Vincent Kompany and Alvaro Negredo before half time, in a game that will be remembered for the infamous offside decision that prevented Raheem Sterling from running through, rounding Joe Hart and scoring, when the 19-year-old was shown to be quite clearly two yards onside.
Mario Balotelli’s arrival at Anfield hasn’t been completed in time for him to make what would have been a dramatic debut against the side with which he won the Premier League in 2012.
Despite returning to light training last week, Adam Lallana continues to be sidelined for match action by the knee injury that he picked up on the clubs’ pre-season tour of the US.
Daniel Agger and Fabio Borini are very unlikely to be in the squad as they recover from injuries and sort out their footballing futures at the same time.
However, positive injury news comes in the return to fitness of exciting Serbian Lazar Markovic, who Rodgers confirmed would be available for the clash after recovering from an on-going niggling injury, and he is set to go straight into the squad for the match.
— This Is Anfield (@thisisanfield) August 22, 2014
Last Sunday’s opener against Southampton proved to come too early for new left-back Moreno, whose move from Sevilla was held up by a delay in finalising paper work, and he could go straight in to Rodgers’ starting XI, replacing Glen Johnson who filled the left-back void against the Saints.
Allen will be knocking on the door for a start after the Welshman produced a much better performance in the half an hour he played than the man he replaced in the midfield on Sunday afternoon, Lucas Leiva, who was surprisingly included from the start.
The two sides have already met once this season – on the clubs’ respective warm-up tours of the US – where Liverpool ran out winners on penalties after 90 minutes – which featured goals from Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling – finished 2-2.
Pelligrini’s men have entered the new season with the very clear objective of defending the Premier League title and they started that defence well last Sunday as they picked up from where they left off last year, by recording a 2-0 win in what turned out to be a tricky fixture away at Newcastle thanks to goals from David Silva and Sergio Aguero.
The City boss handed a debut in last weekend’s game to midfield engine Fernando, who joined in the summer from Porto for a fee reported to be £12million, but fellow new boy Eliaquim Mangala missed out as Pelligrini declared the powerhouse centre-back “not yet ready” for the trip to Tyneside.
The £32million French international is set to miss out on Monday night’s exciting encounter – a game in which Aguero will be pushing for a starting berth in – after the Argentinian came on to replace Edin Dzeko and score the second goal, wrapping the game up at St James’ Park.
At City. Pellegrini says Mangala ‘needs more time’ and probably won’t play v Liverpool. Rest of the squad available, except for Negredo. — Rob Dawson (@RobDawsonMEN) August 22, 2014
The match will be shown on Sky Sports 1 in the second Monday Night Football of the season and Reds everywhere will be hoping that the match – that kicks off at 8pm – produces a second consecutive away win.