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Manchester City vs. Liverpool – The Key Men

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Manchester City host Liverpool this coming Monday night which already promises to be one of the biggest fixtures of the year. Manchester City, who piped Liverpool for the Premier League title on the final round of fixtures last May, will be relishing the opportunity to prove their dominance once again.

Liverpool, having narrowly beat Southampton 2-1 at Anfield last Sunday will be keen to prove there is more than just stability in the post Suarez era, but a chance of a prosperous future, one which, perhaps in time, can see them lay down another genuine challenge for the Premier League title.

Both Manchester City and Liverpool opened up their Premier League campaign’s in a stuttering fashion last weekend, with key men missing for both sides. Aguero was only fit enough for the bench while Zabaletta remains out of the Manchester City squad with injury. Liverpool on the other hand were without the help of new boys Lazar Markovic, Adam Lallana and Alberto Moreno who wasn’t registered in time to play.

Not only was both sides missing key player a factor in the poor performances, but a post World-Cup hangover too. Liverpool statistical blogger Andrew Beasley recently wrote an article which shows in every season after a World Cup top teams struggle early on, and ultimately, less points are needed to win the league. This shows that the poor performances across the Premier League last weekend shouldn’t really have been as much a surprise.

Despite the turgid start for both sides it would be a surprise if next Monday’s stellar fixture doesn’t serve up to be a blockbuster Premier League tie. Sergio Aguero is expected to make a return to Manchester City’s starting XI while Liverpool’s new starlet attacker Lazar Markovic is expected to make his debut for Reds following a tendon injury.

Aguero, who only this week signed a new deal at Manchester City which should keep him at the club until he is 31, is expected to be the Premier League’s star player this season since Luis Suarez has departed. A mercurial talent, Aguero has always been a finisher of elite ability. The well documented problem for the Argentine though, is an increasingly awful injury record.

Aguero’s injury record has plagued him for years – he missed 13 league games last season through a calf injury. When he is fit though, he’s as close to unplayable as you will find in the league. Aguero averaged one goal per 90 minutes last season, an astounding record. Such consistent goal scoring could prove vital for City on Monday, against a newly built Liverpool defence, marshalled by Dejan Lovren.

Aguero’s goal scoring, although superior, shouldn’t shine a bad light on the record of Liverpool’s number 15 Daniel Sturridge. Sturridge, who was the Premier League’s second top scorer with 21 goals last season, finishing behind the departed Luis Suarez, was England’s stand out performer throughout the season. Sturridge averaged 0.83 goals per 90 minutes last season, and having scored last week, he would be a fine pick for fantasy football next week, and beyond.

One key area worth looking at for Monday’s game is full backs, and in particular how Manchester City use Aleksandar Kolarov and Liverpool plan to use Alberto Moreno. Both attacking left backs by trade, will be expected to provide width in an ever-increasingly narrow game deployed by Liverpool and more-so Manchester City. Moreno, despite his age, was impressive last season for Sevilla and helped them win the Europa League.

In the final third of the pitch Moreno looks comfortable, having even played several games on the wing last season. Moreno averaged 0.71 key passes per 90 minutes last season. His stats are dwarfed in comparison to Kolarov though, who averaged 1.22 key passes per 90 minutes last season. While Moreno is expected to start on Monday in place of the underperforming Glen Johnson, Kolarov would be a fine pick for fantasy football. Kolarov, who possesses one of the finest crosses in the game today, will relish coming up against Liverpool’s impressive but inexperienced Javier Manquillo.

The midfield battle too is an area which proves interesting. Liverpool last season after months of tinkering devised a dynamic midfield trio of Gerrard – Henderson – Coutinho. Having been vital in the demolition of Arsenal in the 5-1 at Anfield last Spring it was curious to see Brendan Rodgers change it up for the game vs. Southampton last weekend. The inclusion of Lucas left Liverpool looking predictable and laboured.

If such a set up is picked again for the game vs. Manchester City it may be an area of concern for Liverpool fans. Manchester City will undoubtedly start with the imperious Yaya Toure, a worry for any opposing midfield. Toure, who scored 20 goals last season and made nine assists was the stand out midfielder last season and perhaps in Europe too. Toure made 0.96 key passes per 90 minutes last season, an impressive record. His work rate is questionable though and is prone to switch off in games. Toure, having made only .76 interceptions per 90 minutes last season could actually be a player who could let Manchester City down in a defensive sense vs. Liverpool.

Having only lost to Chelsea at home in the league last season an imperious task awaits Liverpool. Yet Liverpool were the one of the best sides of the road last season and should fear no one. Many key battles arise throughout both sides and the game could prove to be an early season blockbuster is the top players perform to the best of their abilities.

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