Afternoon all. It's not a bad way to round off the Premier League weekend, is it? Manchester City
vs. Liverpool always has a certain ring to it, doesn't it? This one also has quite a lot riding on it for both teams. It should be a good one.
As mentioned in the introduction above, this is a massive game for the hosts. Rivals Manchester United beat Fulham 1-0
last night thanks to a goal from Wayne Rooney. That has opened up a 10-point gap at the top of the table. Failure to beat Liverpool today would leave City a long way behind their rivals. While after last season you'd never write them off, it would be an uphill challenge to win the title from there.
Any way, we'll put all the pre-match chat to one side for a few minutes because the team news from the Etihad has just been released...
MAN CITY X1: Hart; Zabaleta, Nastasic, Lescott, Clichy; Milner, Garcia, Barry, Silva; Dzeko, Aguero
So, the big news for City is that skipper Vincent Kompany has failed to shake off a hamstring injury that he picked up during the recent FA Cup tie against Stoke City. That has resulted in Joleon Lescott being given a role at the back. Meanwhile, up front Edin Dzeko
has been preferred to Carlos Tevez.
LIVERPOOL X1: Reina; Johnson, Carragher, Agger, Enrique; Gerrard, Lucas, Henderson, Downing; Sturridge, Suarez
There's no real major surprises in that Liverpool starting lineup, although Jamie Carragher has kept his place in the defence ahead of Martin Skrtel. Following his recent good form, Jordan Henderson has also been handed a midfield role alongside captain Steven Gerrard
The smart money today would be on this one ending in a draw. After all, five of the last eight meetings in the Premier League between these two have ended with the spoils being shared. You'd have to assume that a draw would suit Liverpool much more than the hosts.
Trips to the blue half of Manchester have actually worked out favourably for Liverpool. There has been 83 meetings, with the Reds coming out on top on 33 occasions. They've also scored 121 times during those encounters. In contrast, City have only won 28 times, scoring 112 goals.
Let's just move away from this game for a couple of minutes to reflect on the earlier Premier League match, which has just finished. A stunning strike from Gareth Bale was enough to give Tottenham Hotspur all three points at West Bromwich Albion. You can read the report from that fixture here
Back to this encounter and one Liverpool player that believes his side are capable of winning today is Jonjo Shelvey. Here's what he had to say:
"The semi-final win shows it can be done, and hopefully we'll be able to do it againt," Shelvey told Liverpool's official website.
"I think we should have won [in August]. We had enough chances to win the game.
"Man City are a good team, they are the champions of England, so you have got to remember that. But if we go there and play the way we did at Anfield then we will get something from the game."
If Liverpool are to collect a positive result, they will have to do something that no team has managed against City in the last six attempts - score a goal! The City defence has been water-tight since the turn of the year and have even looked solid without the presence of Kompany.
Scoring goals is something that has not been a problem for Luis Suarez this season though. The Liverpool frontman has found the net on 22 occasions in all competitions so far. He will probably fancy his chances of adding to his tally this afternoon as well, having scored during the 2-2 draw between these sides earlier in the campaign.
has just been talking about the Uruguayan striker and has admitted that the only way his side may be able to stop him is if they "lock him in the dressing room!"
The City boss went on to add that he is expecting a very difficult encounter today:
"It's usually always difficult against Liverpool. At this moment they are playing very well," he told Sky Sports News.
Mancini is right, you can't argue with how Liverpool have played in recent weeks. They've scored in their last 11 matches in succession. Only leaders Man United can boast a better record than that.
Right, the players are in the tunnel. The two skippers, Gerrard and Pablo Zabaleta, look extremely focused. Not long now until we are off and running at the Etihad.
Here come the players to a decent reception. The handshakes have also been completed and everyone is just going through some final warm-up routines. Who we backing then? I'm going for a 1-1 draw.
Here we go then - Liverpool, kicking from right to left, get this encounter started...
SAVE! Almost the perfect start for Man City. The ball drops to David Silva on the edge of the area, who loops a volley towards goal. Pepe Reina is alert though and manages to retreat and tip the ball over the bar. Fast start from the home team.
Liverpool have actually started this encounter well. The likes of Stewart Downing and Suarez have looked quite lively so far. It looks as though Suarez has been asked to play through the middle, unlike on Wednesday against Arsenal when he operated from the left.
CHANCE! Despite Liverpool's positive start, it's City who are creating the chances. On this occasion a quickly taken corner from James Milner finds Javi Garcia in the area, but he mistimes his header and the ball sails over the crossbar.
CHANCE! What a block from Pablo Zabaleta. Liverpool striker Sturridge beats Joe Hart to the ball and rounds the City keeper. It looks as though he is about to roll the away side into the lead, but a retreating Zabaleta sticks out a boot to divert the ball away danger.
Former Man City full-back Danny Mills has been summing up the match so far over on BBC Radio Five Live
"Interestingly, if you went through the two teams on paper, you would not say Manchester City are a lot better despite the difference in points. As such, it is a very even game so far with a lot of action in the midfield.
"For example, as a former defender, I think at the moment I would rather face City strikers Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko than Liverpool duo Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge."
CHANCE! If there is one player that Liverpool want an opportunity to fall to, it's Suarez. However, he just got it all wrong when Sturridge cut the ball back to him from the byline, only for the Uruguayan to scuff wildly wide. Another chance materialises for him moments later, but shoots wide from a narrow angle.
GOAL! Man City 1-0 Liverpool (Dzeko)
Wow, where did that come from? Liverpool have been the better side and yet they trail. It's brilliant from James Milner, who gets to the left byline before drilling in a low cross into the six yard box. Dzeko is waiting and the Bosnian was not going to miss from there. Big goal for City.
GOAL! Man City 1-1 Liverpool (Sturridge)
Bang! What a strike from Daniel Sturridge. He fires the ball into the bottom corner of then from the edge of the area, but what's impressive is the fact that it was from a standing start. Being a former City player, he opts not to celebrate, but with a hit like that, it must have been hard to resist the temptation. City are not happy though because they believe that Dzeko was fouled during the lead up to the goal. It's what Liverpool deserve though, they've played well.
BOOKING! Dzeko has talked his way into the book after he was not awarded the free kick. Replays show that he may have had a case, but even so, a lot happened between that incident and the ball nestling in the net.
BOOKING! The yellow card tally is quickly evened up though as Liverpool's Henderson is cautioned for a needless sliding challenge on James Milner. It makes you wonder what was going through his mind there - he was never going to get to the ball.
Some potentially bad news for Liverpool because goalscorer Sturridge appears to be limping. Not sure what he has done, but it looks to be a problem with his hamstring or calf. He's still out there at the moment, but it may be something that is assessed at the break.
ALMOST AN OWN GOAL! Dear oh dear Zabaleta. So often the Argentine has been praised this season but he was lacking in concentration just now. He played a back pass to Hart without looking and as a result he failed to notice that his keeper was behind him. Luckily for City, the ball trickled just wide of the post. A big let off for the home team.
We will have two minutes of stoppage time...
HALF-TIME: Man City 1-1 Liverpool
Well that just flew by. What a good watch that first half was. There is bound to be contrasting emotions in the two dressing rooms. Rodgers will be delighted with his side and will probably just ask for more of the same, while Mancini may have to be a little more forceful with his City troops. They were second best for most of that half.
Of course, the major talking point from that half was the Liverpool goal. City feel hard done by because they believe that Dzeko was fouled by Daniel Agger in the lead up. Got to say, having seen replays, it could have easily been given. However, there was plenty of time between that and the goal. It simply wasn't good enough defending from the champions.
And here is Danny Mills's take on the incident over on BBC Radio Five Live
"I wonder if any of the Manchester City players will have a go at Edin Dzeko for staying on the floor and claiming injustice? When I was playing, if I had done that, I would have had my head ripped off at half-time for not helping out and not stopping the other team getting a goal."
It will be interesting to see if Sturridge actually returns for the second half. He has clearly picked up a knock and spent the last five minutes of the first half continually stretching out his leg. It will be a big blow to Liverpool if he cannot continue because he has been on top form today.
Well, the good news for Liverpool is that Sturridge is fit enough to continue. He's still stretching himself out, but he looks happy enough to be out there.
Right then, hosting City get the second half off and running...
CHANCE! City midfielder Garcia is usually so good in the air but he has now wasted two chances. This time around he leaps highest to meet a Silva corner inside the six yard box, but the Spaniard only succeeded in heading way over the target.
After that chance for Garcia, Liverpool have now picked up where they left off at the end of the first half. They are first to every second ball and forcing their opponents into giving away possession cheaply. The City faithful have noticed this and are trying to lift their team.
BOOKING! Controversial caution as Sturridge is booked for diving when being challenged by Lescott inside the area. Replays show that there was no contact between the two players so well done to the referee. Sturridge also says sorry for his actions.
SUBSTITUTION: Early change in this second half for City as centre-back Matija Nastasic is replaced by Aleksandar Kolarov. That may mean that the home side have now reverted to three at the back.
BOOKING! He may have got away with it a few years ago, but Jamie Carragher clearly forces Sergio Aguero to the deck with a sliding challenge from behind. He protests his innocence, but the veteran Liverpool defender goes into the book.
There's been a bit more urgency about City over the last five minutes or so. They are beginning to exert some real pressure on the Liverpool defence, who so far are holding firm. This is a really good contest at the moment.
CHANCE! Suarez has been uncharacteristically wasteful in around the area today. His latest chance arrives as he cuts in from the left, but he can only manage to bend his shot wide of the goal. If he starts to locate the target, City could be in trouble.
CHANCE! Up the other end Silva floats the ball into the Liverpool area from the right for Gareth Barry, who loops a header towards goal. It's not the best effort though and the ball lands on the roof of Reina's net.
It's become a real end-to-end affair at the Etihad. Rather than a football match, it looks more like basketball! There's certainly more goals in this game, but which way, I'm not sure. Your guess is as good as mine! Have to say Liverpool look very dangerous on the break though.
BOOKING! It's not been a great afternoon for Garcia and it just got a little worse for the City midfielder as he sees yellow for dragging down Suarez. That's what they call taking one for the team because the Liverpool striker was racing through the middle there.
GOAL! Man City 1-2 Liverpool (Gerrard)
That is wonderful. How many great goals has Steven Gerrard scored for Liverpool? Well, you can add another one to the tally. The ball drops to the skipper 25 yards from goal and he takes one touch with his chest before lashing a half-volley beyond the reach of Hart and into the net. Great goal - and one that will probably have been celebrated by a number of Manchester United fans!
SUBSTITUTION: Both sides make a switch after the goal. Strangely, Silva is replaced by Maicon for Man City, while Jose Enrique limps off and is replaced by Martin Skrtel. That is likely to mean that Carragher will move to left-back for Liverpool.
CHANCE! That was nearly game, set and the match for Liverpool. Gerrard turned provider as he sent over a free kick from the left, which was flicked goalwards by Sturridge. Hart was rooted to the spot, but luckily for him the ball skids inches wide of the target.
GOAL! Man City 2-2 Liverpool (Aguero)
What an earth has Pepe Reina done? He comes out to meet Aguero to the right of the penalty area when he really didn't need to be there. After that, it is all about the City striker, who rounds the Liverpool keeper, before chipping the ball into the net from what looked like an impossible angle. Game on.
BOOKING! Gerrard goes into the book for a blatant trip on Aguero. Like Garcia's earlier, it was one of those fouls that sometimes have to be made and you take the punishment on the chin.
This one is really hard to call now. Both of them still look keen to win this and are pushing forward in numbers. Whatever happens, it's been a really good game. I'd go as far as saying it's been one of the best so far this season.
CHANCE! City have wasted a number of chances in the air today. The latest one to miss the target is Maicon, who races into the six yard area unopposed. However, there is far too much power on his header and the ball flies well over the crossbar.
SUBSTITUTION: Final roll of the dice from Mancini as he brings off Gareth Barry and sends Samir Nasri into the action. What impact, if any, can the Frenchman have?
SAVE! What a stop from Hart, because there was a crowd of bodies that Sturridge's poked effort flew through before it reached the goal. The City keeper was alert though and threw himself to his right to palm away the danger.
There will be five minutes of stoppage time for somebody to find a winning goal...
SUBSTITUTION: Switch for Liverpool as Joe Allen comes on for Sturridge. The former City player leaves the pitch to a chorus of jeers from the home faithful, which seems to amuse Sturridge greatly!
Liverpool are in no rush to take any throws or free kicks now. They seem happy with what they've got and they should be because they've played very well today. Will there be on final twist in the tale though? You can't rule it out.
FULL TIME: Man City 2-2 Liverpool
There you have it then folks, City drop two points in the title race against a Liverpool side who probably have not played much better than that all season. They were the better side from the first whistle and but for a mistake from their goalkeeper Reina to allow Aguero to score, they would have taken all three points.
That is all we have time for from the Etihad Stadium. Thanks for joining us this afternoon. We will have some analysis from this match on the site soon so be sure to look out for that. Thanks again.