Although I have found myself wanting Brendan Rodgers to succeed, I'm afraid that I require Liverpool to lose by 4 goals today. This is the kind of game that we need to win big, to set us up for a good run of form.
1. Key Matchup - The key matchup will be our defense vs Suarez/Sturridge. Our defense has been smothering lately. We haven't allowed a goal in any competition since Norwich managed to get three back in December. On the other side, Luis Suarez has scored 8 goals in his last 7 appearances. That's insane. Since Daniel Sturridge has arrived, Liverpool finally have another player who is willing to chip in with goals.
With Vincent Kompany still out for another week, it will be up to Matija Nastasic and Joleon Lescott to shut down this goal-scoring duo. This matchup will do more to affect the scoresheet than any other.
2. Strikers - We need our strikers to get on a good run of form that carry through the rest of the season. Edin Dzeko was the last striker to score for City, in the game against Arsenal. No more time to sit around. They need to know that if they don't score, they will go. There will be enough rumors about who City will bring in during the summer transfer window to remind them of that. Time to perform.
3. Young players - I'm excited for the young guys to start getting a look into the side. We have so many talented youngsters in our squad. John Guidetti should get to show why management was willing to let Balotelli go without bringing in a replacement. I think that he can be better than Balotelli, and even Dzeko and Tevez. He reminds me of Robin Van Persie before he died (or went to United). Guidetti has a great first touch, and an eye for goal. Pair that with an inordinate amount of self-confidence, and you have a first-rate goal scorer.
4. Milner or Nasri? - I seem to be asking this every game. For me, the answer today is still James Milner. With Nastasic back, Javi Garcia can go back to the midfield (seriously Yaya, come back already). This allows Milner to get over to the right wing, where he has been devastatingly effective lately. That's where he featured for our key wins over Fulham, Arsenal, and Stoke City. Keep Nasri on the bench for a change of pace substitution, but start Milner on the right.
5. A Final Word. - We know that catching Manchester United won't be easy. The scenarios for catching them aren't impossible. United were expected to beat Fulham yesterday. The fact that they came 10 minutes away from dropping points was only a tease for the matches where they actually do drop points (v Everton, West Ham, maybe even Sunderland).
The choke job that United executed last year proved that they are not the same juggernauts of years past. There is far less steel in their spine than there used to be. United are a team that have an almost impossible legacy to live up to. 12 of the last 20 league titles? That's not going to happen again. Not when other teams have caught up in terms of talent and financial resources.
I think that the same pressure we saw getting to them last year can and will happen again. When City play first and win, it puts extraordinary pressure on United, especially on some of their younger players. When they play first, they have to win, knowing that City will play a good game.
COME ON CITY!!!!!!