The new season began on a high note for Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool after beating Southampton 2-1 in their first game. The way the victory came about, however, was different from what fans were expecting, as the team had to labor against the Saints for large portions of the second half. It is extremely important that Liverpool plays well against Manuel Pellegrini and Manchester City, as a great way to build momentum right at the beginning of the season. Since Mario Balotelli‘s transfer will not be completed in time for the game, he will not feature in the lineup.
Simon Mignolet made some spectacular saves against Southampton, with the one from a Morgan Schneiderlin shot the best. The goal that he allowed was mostly a result of his defense letting him down. He will have to be at the top of his form against the formidable front line and midfield of Man City.
Javier Manquillo performed quite well in his debut game in the Premier League and even though playing him against a team like Man City is worrying, Glen Johnson has been terrible against them. In the two games against the blue half of Manchester last season, Johnson was completely overmatched by Samir Nasri and James Milner and he even conceded an own goal. Manquillo has proven that he can perform well against top opposition as he battled against Cristiano Ronaldo last season while playing for Atletico Madrid. He also performed well against fellow debutant, Dusan Tadic. The Spaniard did, however, pick up a yellow card in the last match, so he will have to keep his aggression in check in order not be sent off.
There should be no change in the center back pairing of Martin Skrtel and Dejan Lovren as both played fairly well against Southampton. Lovren looked right at home beside Skrtel, intercepting opponent’s passes while also distributing long balls forward. Skrtel has experience against Man City and his leadership will be important for a back line that is still getting used to each other. Another reason why Skrtel is a better option than other candidates is that he is a major aerial threat from both corners and free kicks. He doesn’t necessarily need to score when heading from set pieces, just putting the ball in the area in front of goal could lead to a tap-in by another player or even an own goal.
Although Johnson started against Southampton, I believe that it wouldn’t be such a big risk for Rodgers to start Alberto Moreno instead. The Spaniard was brought in to be the left back for the future and why not start him right away. His energy and pace will be a great asset against the league champions.
Rodgers used a three-man midfield in front of the defense, which occasionally would become a two-man midfield when Jordan Henderson would charge forward. However, this left Steven Gerrard and Lucas Leiva to try and stop the Southampton counterattacks, a task both of them did not have the legs to accomplish. This changed when Joe Allen was brought on for Lucas, the Welshman got into the flow of the game right away and his energy was instrumental in settling his team down after a barrage of Southampton attacks. Allen would be a good option to start beside Gerrard in the midfield.
Both Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho had huge influences in the last game and both performed well against the Citizens the last time they played, with Coutinho netting the winner after a Vincent Kompany error. Although he is more suited to a role behind the strikers, Coutinho is capable enough to occupy a slot beside Gerrard. Sterling would return to the position that he shined in last season, the no.10. While in that position, he has the freedom to influence the game however he wants to.
Daniel Sturridge should remain alone up top in this game. He will have to not be outmuscled by the Man City defenders. The England international will have to take any chance that comes his way in the game if Liverpool wants to win. Of course Rickie Lambert could also start beside his England teammate to ease the pressure.