What: English Premier League
Who: Manchester City vs Liverpool
When: Monday 23rd August, 2010, at 20:00 UK time
Where: City of Manchester Stadium, Manchester, England

Harder than Expected

Manchester City’s 2010/11 domestic campaign got off on the wrong foot, as England’s richest club struggled to earn the draw at White Hart Lane; had it not been for the heroics of young keeper Joe Hart they certainly wouldn’t have. The former Birmingham City custodian is now sure of being City’s Number 1 – for now – leading to intense speculation over the long-term future of team-mate Shay Given.

On another note, Mario Balotelli’s summer transfer saga is finally over, with the young Italian joining the Blue revolution for a figure around the £24M mark. Super Mario’s Manchester City career couldn’t have started any better, as he scored the sole goal in the Citizens’ Europa League game against Timisoara, only to be stretchered off the field later on due to injury. However, the Italian hopes to be fit for this crucial clash.

Another player who is in contention for his club debut is James Milner. Similar to Balotelli, the former Leeds United prodigy has finally made the move to Eastlands. Able to slot in practically anywhere in midfield, Milner joins the likes of Yaya Toure, David Silva and Nigel de Jong in what has very much become England’s own assembly of “galacticos”.

But for a Blunder…

Liverpool’s luck wasn’t that much different from that of their opponents. The Reds started the new campaign against title hopefuls Arsenal, and saw their hopes quickly dented as Joe Cole was sent off in the first half. David N’Gog broke the deadlock at the start of the second forty-five minutes, and with ten men, Liverpool were on course for a well-deserved victory, only for tragedy to strike in the form of a Pepe Reina gaffe, sharing the spoils between the two teams at the end.

Recent news around Anfield involves the departure of two of the team’s better players, as Dirk Kuyt is linked with a reunion with Rafael Benitez at Internazionale while midfield flop Alberto Aquilani has penned a loan move to Juventus. Christian Poulsen’s debut in a red shirt against Trabzonspor wasn’t that fancy, but a lot of hope is being placed upon the Dane to produce, especially in the event of Aquilani and Mascherano’s potential exits. Liverpool fans hope new manager Roy Hodgson knows what he is doing.


Recent form

Manchester City:
Manchester City 2-0 Valencia (07/08; Friendly)
Tottenham Hotspur 0-0 Manchester City (14/08; Premier League)
Timisoara 0-1 Manchester City (19/08; Europa League)


Liverpool 2-0 Rabotnicki (05/08; Europa League)
Liverpool 1-1 Arsenal (15/08; Premier League)
Liverpool 1-0 Trabzonspor (19/08; Europa League)

Key absences

Manchester City: Aleksandar Kolarov; Jerome Boateng (doubt)

Liverpool: Joe Cole (suspension); Daniel Agger; Javier Mascherano (doubt)

Players to watch

Manchester City – James Milner: The new City signing is expected to produce this season, especially given how highly his stock has risen over the past 12 months. It will be interesting to see how easily he is able to link with forward Carlos Tevez and the rest of Roberto Mancini’s team and whether or not he can make an instant impact.

Liverpool – Martin Skrtel: In a game where Liverpool will have to deal with a City side enjoying home advantage and a dangerous strike force, Slovakian centre back Martin Skrtel will have to be at the races from the off. With likely colleague Jamie Carragher not the paciest, what Skrtel does could be critical to the Reds keeping a clean sheet.

Match prediction

Should Mario Balotelli regain full fitness, then Liverpool will be the first side to experience the full strength of the Citizens’ attacking prowess, now that Milner has also joined in the fray. Liverpool’s draw against Arsenal felt like more of a loss, and has hit them hard in terms of morale. Expect a 2-1 scoreline in favour of the hosts.