Liverpool v Manchester City
Sunday 12:00, Sky Sports 1
Match Odds: Liverpool 3.211/5, Manchester City 2.447/5, The Draw 3.613/5
Last season's corresponding fixture was one of the most exciting Premier League games in recent memory, and while there isn't so much riding upon the game this time around, expect a very interesting tactical battle in Sunday's early kick-off.
Brendan Rodgers has found a winning formula with his 3-4-3 formation and Liverpool are currently the Premier League's form side, while Manuel Pellegrini remains committed to more of a 4-4-2 system with the wide players coming inside, as we saw against Barcelona in midweek. Therefore, this is likely to be a clash between two entirely different systems.
Rodgers' 3-4-3 is working nicely because Liverpool have so many quick, talented, energetic wide players. Indeed, such is the surplus of players who can play in the wide roles here, Liverpool have often been able to play Raheem Sterling upfront and still pack the flanks with dangerous dribblers, and the emergence of Jordon Ibe has only strengthened Rodgers' hand in this respect.
Rodgers seems likely to play Daniel Sturridge as his central striker, probably moving Sterling wide. Adam Lallana and Coutinho are options for the front three, but Lazar Markovic could be a more exciting choice if Liverpool are to attack primarily with width. Ibe and Alberto Moreno can play on the flanks.
The reason Liverpool will want to attack down the flanks is because Manchester City are likely to vacate those positions quickly with the wide players coming inside. The shape Pellegrini used against Barca was effectively a 4-2-2-2, with Samir Nasri and David Silva operating in central positions as much as they played out wide, which enables City to dominate the centre of the pitch, yet leaves their full-backs exposed.
Pellegrini could consider changing to a more cautious system, perhaps a 4-2-3-1 with Silva centrally and James Milner shifted wide to provide more defensive balance. He started centrally in midweek but Yaya Toure will return here, and it would surely be foolish not to use Milner in a game that seems perfect for his discipline.
Liverpool are likely to pay close attention to Toure, pressing him as soon as he receives possession, and City might be better off finding Silva more directly - he's been in superb form recently.
Despite this match taking place at Anfield, I'd be surprised if Liverpool dominated possession. They've always been at their best under Rodgers when attacking directly, and they'll probably attempt to replicate the approach they used against Southampton last weekend, when they sat deep before counter-attacking sporadically. Ibe, Moreno, Sterling, Markovic and Sturridge is a terrifyingly quick quintet.
I can imagine Manchester City's defensive players being in serious danger of being booked for stopping counter-attacks. Fernando or Fernandinho, whoever anchors the City midfield, will probably be forced into wide areas to cover, while Pablo Zabaleta can really struggled against speed too, and committed a silly late foul in midweek to concede a penalty.
The obvious zone Liverpool will worry about is at the back, where Sergio Aguero - and perhaps Edin Dzeko, but maybe Wilfried Bony - will attempt to get in behind. Liverpool's defence has rarely looked settled under Rodgers, but the three-man backline seems to work reasonably well, with Emre Can and Mamadou Sakho likely to play either side of Martin Skrtel, who can sit deep.
This is a quick turnaround for Liverpool following extra-time away in Turkey on Thursday evening, and I think this is the biggest barrier to their success. Expect Manchester City to have plenty of possession, and Silva and Aguero will inevitably create chances. But with Simon Mignolet back in form and Liverpool so dangerous on the counter-attack, 3.211/5 looks a decent price to me for a home victory.
Back Liverpool at 3.211/5