Man City vs Liverpool: Key Battles

Every point counts for Manchester City as they look to heap the pressure on Manchester United by beating Liverpool.

Skrtel can't bear to watch!

By FOX Sports Staff

The last time these two sides met, back in August, few gave Brendan Rodgers' squad much of a chance.

As it turned out, it was the Reds who emerged from that game unlucky not to have won it as a Martin Skrtel own-goal and a late Carlos Tevez strike helped City eke out a 2-2 draw.

With Joe Allen epitomizing Rodgers' preferred style of possession football by dictating play from midfield and Luis Suarez a nuisance upfront, the fixture was a glimmer of hope for fans who yearned for the club to once again be considered in the top bracket of the Premier League.

Although Liverpool are still some way behind title challengers City in the league table, the Reds, knowing that they came so close to undoing their opponents the last time round, will take the game to Mancini's team on Sunday. 

Predicted Starting XIs

Man City: Hart, Zabaleta, Clichy, Kompany, Nastasic, Barry, Nasri, Milner, Silva, Tevez, Aguero

Form guide: DWWWW

Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Wisdom, Agger, Skrtel, Lucas, Allen, Gerrard, Sterling, Suarez, Sturridge

Form guide: DWLWW previews some of the key battles that could decide the game.

Sergio Aguero & Carlos Tevez vs Daniel Agger & Martin Skrtel

With 19 strikes between them so far, City pairing Aguero and Tevez have tormented defences with their movement in and around the penalty area. On good days, the Argentineans are an absolute handful to deal with, linking up with each other and David Silva to overrun opponents on their way to goal.

Not that Agger and Skrtel need any reminder of the duo's lethality, since all it took was one mistake the previous time around for Liverpool to throw away two points to a Tevez strike.

Positioning should be an utmost priority for Rodgers' central defenders in this game as the City attackers will definitely look to draw Skrtel and Agger out in order to expose Pepe Reina.

David Silva vs Lucas Leiva

He might have gotten off to a slow start this season, but Silva's recent double against Fulham indicates that the Spaniard is close to hitting top form. As City's playmaker, Silva roams all over the attacking third for Mancini's team, skipping and slithering his way through defences.

Never one to lunge into tackles recklessly, Lucas will shadow Silva as he makes his way around the outskirts of the penalty area, nipping at the former Valencia man's heels so as to prevent him from playing through passes to his team-mates.

The Brazilian made his return from a thigh injury in December and Rodgers is expecting him to play an integral part of Liverpool's climb up the table. A good performance against the Premier League champions could be just what Lucas needs to begin fulfilling his manager's hopes.

Joleon Lescott & Matija Nastasic vs Luis Suarez & Daniel Sturridge

Suarez has not allowed the controversy dogging him or the helpless defenders who attempt to slow him down to distract from his purpose at Liverpool. The Uruguayan has notched up 16 goals in 22 Premier League appearances so far and now has an able sidekick in Sturridge to drive Rodgers' men forward.

City skipper Kompany is still out with an injury picked up against Stoke last month while Kolo Toure is currently away on international duty. This means that young Nastasic and third-choice defender Lescott will have to do their best in order to help Joe Hart register a fifth straight clean sheet. However, neither of them is likely to be looking forward to dealing with the tricks Suarez has up his sleeve.

Gareth Barry vs Steven Gerrard

Despite lacking the star quality of others in the side, the former Aston Villa man is quite possibly one of the first names on Mancini's team sheet simply because he is the heartbeat of the team. While usual central midfield partner Yaya Toure is an energetic box-to-box player who goes the distance for City, Barry's exceptional sense of positioning means he is often the man to initiate these transitions from defence to attack.

With the towering Ivorian away on Africa Cup of Nations duty, Barry will have to be more prudent in his releases as he cannot afford to gift possession away to the man he will come up against in the game, Reds skipper Gerrard. Given the license to move forward more often with the return of Lucas, the 32-year old will pounce on any opportunity to add on to his tally of 11 assists and six goals. 

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