With both teams coming off of undesirable results prior to the international break, Manchester City and Liverpool seek out their winning ways in Saturday's late game.
Manchester City will look to maintain their spot atop the table against the side that defeated them in their last match in March of this year. Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson both scored in that game that could've placed City in a closer position to bid for last season's title.
This season, City have faced a myriad of injuries and have seen their best players out for the majority of the campaign, but today's match signify's a potential turning point as Sergio Aguero returns to the side that has been rather short of options when it comes to it's attack. Aguero spent the majority of October and November watching from the stands as he nursed a hamstring injury that he suffered during the previous international spell, and it seems as if City have worked miracles at the striker position in his absence.
On the other end, Liverpool also look to welcome back Daniel Sturridge, and although Jurgen Klopp has indicated that Sturbridge is fit enough to play, it may not be so conclusive that he's fit to play against City. It's a huge risk in the sense that City's physical center backs and defensive midfielders will certainly look to punish the former academy player, but for Klopp, the options up top are as limited as his opposition's. Klopp is known for his high volume, high energy attack, but he's still working off of players that aren't completely fit for his system, and that could play to City's advantage.
Klopp has yet to totally find a rhythm for the entire Liverpool squad, but that hasn't stopped the Brazilian in his midfield from excelling this season. Phillippe Coutinho will prove to be a fox in the box for the Manchester City defense, a defense that will be once again without it's captain Vincent Kompany, which means that Coutinho could prove potent as he has been all season. James Milner returns to the Etihad for the first time since leaving the club in the summer. In his pre-match press conference, City boss Manuel Pellegrini spoke on Milner, saying that the club did all that they could to keep him, but that the English all purpose player wanted a "new challenge." Expect Milner to receive a positive welcome from the City support, unlike many players who leave their club for greener pastures.
That leaves the elephant in the room; Raheem Sterling.
It would appear that Sterling will receive a rather generous welcome from his former club's support. Being that he left on such fantastic terms it's more than likely that there will be no bad blood between the fledgeling winger and his old squad. There couldn't be any reason why he would he consider a celebration similar to Emmanuel Adebayor against Arsenal.
This is a matchup that City should be up for, although David Silva will not be back until the middle of the week with an ankle niggle, the return of Sergio Aguero should be the spark that puts the Blues over the top. Liverpool are stretched thin on defense and are quite young, and that means plenty of opportunities to exploit mistakes and have City come out on top.
For more on the history between these two clubs, visit here.