1. Will the Anfield factor make a significant difference?
LIVERPOOL’S HOME RECORD in the Premier League is virtually unblemished since their 1-0 loss to Southampton in September, dropping points at Anfield just once (in the 2-2 draw with Aston Villa) since then.
However, they have yet to play a team on City’s level at their own ground, so this afternoon will provide a better indicator of just how formidable they are in this environment.
Liverpool, despite failing to beat City in the past five meetings between the sides, have blown away some fairly decent teams already this season at Anfield — Tottenham, Arsenal and Everton all spring to mind.
City, meanwhile, can also boast excellent home form, but have a less than impressive away record when judged by their high standards, and today’s encounter will surely be their sternest test yet on the road.
2. How offensive will Liverpool line out?
Liverpool have tended to adopt a slightly more cautious approach in recent matches, which has unsurprisingly led to them conceding less goals.
Whereas once, they accommodated a midfield that featured Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho, they have tended to select Joe Allen instead of either Sterling or Coutinho more often not in recent times in order to provide the team with a better defensive balance.
That said, Allen was injured for last week’s game against West Ham, so they initially went with the aforementioned attack-minded quartet, however with Liverpool drawing 1-1, this experiment was ended at half-time, as Lucas Levia replaced Coutinho. The former consequently operated as an effective stand-in for Allen, and the Reds went on to earn a victory.
The Welsh international could return today, but if he is deemed unfit to play, it seems most likely that Lucas and one of either Sterling or Coutinho will be handed a starting spot.
3. How big an influence will Aguero have?
Source: Scott Heppell
Sergio Aguero has missed the last eight games for City and has generally struggled with injuries for a few months now.
However, the striker is expected to feature today, at the very least from the bench, having shaken off a hamstring injury.
The Argentinian international has barely played since the turn of the year, but when fit, most defences tend to find him extremely difficult to handle.
Aguero is consequently up there with Sturridge and Suarez as being among the finest strikers in the Premier League, as 26 goals from 25 starts in all competitions attests.
Therefore, should he feature, the notoriously flimsy Liverpool defence may have an especially difficult afternoon, provided his lack of fitness doesn’t hamper the star unduly.
4. Will Brendan Rodgers place faith in Sakho?
Liverpool have often tended to play two of either Martin Skrtel, Kolo Toure or Daniel Agger in central defence this season, with none of the trio looking entirely convincing over the course of the campaign.
Yet with Agger injured for the recent trip to West Ham, Mamadou Sakho came into the side and produced a solid display as the Reds won 2-1.
Agger is now reportedly fit and available again, but with Sakho having performed consummately last week, the Liverpool boss has a difficult decision to make.
With the Danish international having shown indifferent form of late, Sakho arguably has the edge in this battle. Moreover, the France international is better equipped to stop Aguero with his superior pace, while he also possesses the type of imposing physicality that would enable him to relish any prospective battles with Edin Dzeko or Alvaro Negredo.
5. Can David Silva thrive?
Whenever Manchester City have been at their best in the big games this season, David Silva has invariably been prominent.
The Spanish international is City’s creative fulcrum and showed how powerful an influence he can be in the side’s 3-0 defeat of Manchester United last month.
In the opening 20 minutes of the Old Trafford encounter in particular, United simply could not deal with the diminutive midfielder, as he continually found space between the defence and the midfield, causing considerable damage in the process.
This afternoon, Liverpool will perhaps need to designate someone to stick closely to Silva — Steven Gerrard, for all his many talents, may not have quite the mobility and defensive nous to combat the considerable threat posed by his opponent, so the quicker and more energetic Jordan Henderson might be the wiser option to man-mark the elusive 28-year-old.