Preview: Manchester City v Liverpool

The first home match of the season sees Roy Hodgson bring Liverpool to Eastlands in a game neither manager will want to lose as they bid to claim a Champions League slot. James Milner is in line to make his debut for City as we seek our first league victory.

Last season saw City and Liverpool play out two draws with the game at Eastlands in particular condemned for a lack of adventure by Roberto Mancini and Rafa Benitez. Roy Hodgson is hardly known for his gung-ho tactics either with his Fulham side managing just four away victories in the last two seasons.

Mancini has sought to keep it tight in the opening periods of both games so anything other than 0-0 at half-time might well be a surprise.

With our most attacking full-backs injured, it looks likely that Lescott will be asked to continue on the left flank after a solid display against FC Timisoara. Joleon looks the best bet against Dirk Kuyt, where he can combat the Liverpool player’s energy with his physical strength.

Micah Richards and Pablo Zabaleta will contest the right-back slot. The Argentine looked the more impressive last week, though he wasn’t up against an in-form Gareth Bale.

Roberto Mancini has been quick to praise Balotelli in the build-up to this game:

“In my view, Balotelli can be as good as Torres and even better.

“He’s quick, strong in the air, good technique, young; he has everything you need to be the best, and I think he is going to be more suited to the Premier League than the Italian championship.”

Don’t be fooled into thinking this means Balotelli will start the game. The young Italian was behind in pre-season training when he joined us and the knee injury at the end of last Thursday’s game has restricted his preparations for tonight. Expect another cameo from the bench when the game opens out.

James Milner is a stronger candidate to start with Gareth Barry, subbed on Thursday, the most likely to make way. Somebody will need to keep an eye on Glen Johnson, and Milner’s famed work-rate could win him the job. If Adebayor retains his starting place, this should give us a more attacking and flexible line-up than we saw in the previous two games.

Hodgson has nursed Torres back with a view to starting him tonight, while Steven Gerrard was rested last Thursday. With Joe Cole suspended, Gerrard is likely to play in an advanced role and Nigel de Jong will need to be on his toes.

Kolo and in particular Kompany need to be wary of Torres’ pace. Mancini is unlikely to have our centre-backs pushing high up the pitch with the Spaniard around.

David Silva will again have a tough task as he battles to get past two of Mascherano, Poulsen and Lucas. Tevez will once again be our best hope at this early stage of the season.

Adebayor simply looks in need of a goal. Particularly if he wants to dispel rumours of his own departure and Ibrahimovic’s arrival.

As every pundit says, City are still a side who need to gel. Tonight would be a fine time to start, both to get our season fully up and running, and to keep the critics at bay.

Blue Days line-up (4-2-3-1):
Zabaleta – K Toure – Kompany – Lescott
de Jong – Y Toure
Silva – Tevez – Milner

Prediction: 2-0 to City.

Will injuries force Mancini into a tactical rethink?
Player ratings: Manchester City v Liverpool

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