Having recovered well from the Community Shield defeat to beat Newcastle at St James’ Park, Manchester City will be feeling confident about their chances of defeating title rivals Liverpool. The Reds were somewhat fortunate to beat Southampton last weekend, meaning they need to show a massive improvement in order to get anything from Etihad.
Even if they hadn’t spent too much time at the top of the Premier League standings, Manchester City deservedly lifted the trophy last term, showing the most consistency of all title contenders. The club management since did well to keep hold of all key players, while adding several quality footballers that could make a real difference this term. Even if Eliaquim Mangala will probably be the only summer signing to play on regular basis, the other recruitments have added much needed strength in depth to Manuel Pellegrini’s side. Considering that quite a few first team regulars were either unavailable or struggling for fitness in the Community Shield match, the 3-0 loss to Arsenal came as no surprise, and City soon returned to the right track, having defeated very good Newcastle side at St James’ Park. Even if it is still early in the season, the Citizens looked very much like the team that dominated the league last term, with Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic especially impressive, while Sergio Aguero once again proved he doesn’t need to be fully fit in order to keep scoring. The Argentine will probably have to settle for a place on the bench one more time, before he enters the pitch in the second period to terrorize Liverpool defenders. Meanwhile, Bacary Sagna, Pablo Zabaleta and Alvaro Negredo are not yet ready to return.
Even if Luis Suarez was the only member of the starting line-up to quit Anfield and no less than seven new players arrived, the reality is Liverpool will find it hard to mount another serious title challenge. This time out they will also have Champions League campaign to worry about, while the new signings will obviously need some time to settle. If Mario Balotelli succeeds in staying focused on his football most of the time, the Reds might even repeat last season’s result, but the Italian certainly will not be in contention for the City clash. Judging by team’s first competitive match of the season, it is easy to see Liverpool are nowhere near their top form, and they do seem to struggle in the build up play. The Reds were unable to kill off the game against Southampton after taking the lead and they had to endure a difficult half an hour before Daniel Sturridge scored a lucky winner. The new-look back line looked very shaky in the second period against the Saints and no doubt they will have their work cut out for them when facing the likes of Dzeko, Jovetic, Aguero and Nasri. The good news is Lazar Markovic and Alberto Moreno are in contention to start, but Adam Lallana, Daniel Agger and Jon Flanagan are not.
Manchester City appear to have already hit the ground running and with another full week of training behind them, the players who took part at the 2014 World Cup should be even sharper when facing Liverpool. The Reds, on the other hand, will need time to rediscover their form and I cannot see them getting anything from this match.
Verdict: Home win
Best Odds: 17/20
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