TV: FSC in US, SKY SPORTS FOR UK
Sky Blue Siren: Bitter And Blue
Slightly bigger challenge this Sunday, no?
While the victory at Stamford Bridge made us feel all fuzzy inside just like the Muppets, putting one over the league leaders is another matter entirely. The differences are clear. Chelsea were already in crisis and a mess before Liverpool ever walked through the door. Though City have had a major European hiccup, that might be more down to luck than incompetence. Other than that City are rolling. Secondly, the weakness of Chelsea was known to everyone who is upright and breathing. They can't maintain the high line they want to play, and their defense when pressured will cock up in some sort of hilarious fashion. Where the City weakness is anyone's guess. They've scored at least twice in every league match. They're oozing talent at every position. Sure, their defensive record doesn't glimmer in the sun, but a lot of the goals they've conceded have come after they've already had their way with the opponent, disposed of the prophylactic into the toilet and are heading to the porch for a smoke.
I suppose you could argue that Sunday is a real test of City's character, turning around right after a hugely disappointing Champions League loss in Naples that will probably end their European Cup campaign. But in that match, City had 70% of the possession and were undone by a set piece and a brilliant counter (and Napoli could have had more on the counter but for a post and some wayward finishing).
What do Liverpool do with that evidence? Not much. It's not as if City have been habitually weak at set-pieces. Bobby Zamora was able to hassle the City defense into a draw back in September. If you combine that with a belief that you can get something from a corner or free kick, that's going to pretty much scream for the inclusion of Andy Carroll.
But if the plan is to strike like a thief in the night on the counter, then Carroll wouldn't fit into that plan. The same attacking quartet of Suarez, Bellamy, Kuyt, Maxi would probably be the optimum force for that, with maybe Downing replacing Kuyt just to up the pace a little (a very little). But that would mean a 4-2-2-2 or some hybrid of that, and the thought of Adam and Lucas dealing with De Jong, Toure, and probably Gareth Barry (who I've always thought sucked and blame him partially for Xabi Alonso's exit -- irrationally I know -- is having a splendid season) all alone doesn't make for an easy stomach.
To counter that, Jordan Henderson could be installed in his favored central role ahead of Lucas and Adam, and revert to a more 4-3-3 look that kind of mirrors what City do. In defense, the fluidity and pace of Silva, Nasri, Aguero, Balotelli, Milner, and Adam Johnson (I'm getting dizzy now) would have to mean that Skrtel and Agger keep their places with Enrique and Johnson flanking them. We'll find out if Kenny has a bit of a blind spot when it comes to Jamie Carragher Sunday. The movement City are capable of could cause Carra to pass out, and I frankly don't want to see it. Carragher still has a lot of use for the team, but it is not this weekend. Luckily, Balotelli and Silva have played two games this week and may be rested. We can only hope we get to see the utterly pants Edin Dzeko and the apparently lazy Adam Johnson instead of the looney tune Italian and Spaniard.
What worries anyone the most about this match is that there's no way that City won't have the majority of the ball. Which means chances are going to be limited for Liverpool. And ruthlessness isn't something that the Reds have had in abundance this season. They were mightily efficient last Sunday. Can they double it up?