Manchester City – Liverpool (Premier League)
As a Christmas treat, Boxing Day closes with the two attacking forces of the Premier League going head-to-head, the two teams playing the most enticing football in England at the moment. Between them they have scored – wait for it– 93 goals, 51 for the Citizens and 42 for the Reds. With Aguero and Sturridge watching from the stands this will be a fight for Negredo and Suárez. And a freaking nightmare for both back-lines. Third against first, what a present this is bound to be!
Manchester City sit in the 3rd position with 35 points, one behind leaders Liverpool and Arsenal. They have won eight of their last nine fixtures in all competitions, against such teams as the Gunners, Bayern Munich and the Spurs. In doing so they’ve netted 33 times. At the Etihad they have been particularly overwhelming this season. Victory escaped them just the one time they host the European defending Champions, in early October.
Sergio Aguero is still recovering from injury, and so is Matija Nastasic. The Serbian’s absence has been noted in the Citizens defence that now face another problem at right-back. Clichy did his best in a position that is not his own against Fulham but he will be slightly above his head against Liverpool. But then again who isn’t, right? Stevan Jovetic and Micah Richards are ruled out but Zabaleta could be in contention. Let’s see if he is fit enough to play from the start.
Probable line-up: Joe Hart – Zabaleta, Demichelis, Kompany, Clichy – Fernandinho, Touré – Jesus Navas, David Silva, Nasri – Negredo.
Liverpool are at the top of the Premier League table with 36 points. What a rush! They head into Manchester expecting the fifth straight victory in the League. It’s top scorer, Luis Suárez, with 19 successful hits in 12 appearances, sign a new contract on Friday that binds him to Liverpool for the long run. He’s the very image of joy, has Brendan Rodgers confidence and has expressed his gratitude for the support of the fans, even in the worst moments. Stopping him is not job for a single defender, it will require highly focused team work. Jordan Henderson is another one that definitely step up in Gerrard’s absence. He is feeding the attack with great skill and intention. The average age of Liverpool’s starting XI is 24 years old, which means this is a roster with future.
Steven Gerrard, Daniel Sturridge, Sebastián Coates and José Enrique remain on the sidelines.
Probable line-up: Mignolet – Johnson, Skertel, Sakho, Flanagan – Jordan Henderson, Lucas Leiva, Joe Allen – Sterling, Suárez, Coutinho.
December is almost over and most of the Premier League squads are showing evidences of fatigue. The schedule has been brutal and it’s only natural to see some heavy legs, specially those involved in European competitions. That may well be an advantage to Liverpool as the knock-out stages progress, a consolation prize of sorts. Thursday’s day night, however, we’ll have none of that. The chance to end the year as number one is a powerful boost of energy. Another thing is certain, there will be goals!