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Preview: Liverpool vs. Manchester City

Sports Mole previews Sunday's Premier League showdown between Liverpool and Manchester City at Anfield.

In this fixture last season, the Premier League title was at stake for both Liverpool and Manchester City, but it is a slightly different story this time around.

City may still be in the hunt for their third English title, but they sit five points off the pace behind leaders Chelsea.

In contrast, Liverpool are far from a title charge, but they are firmly in the fight for a Champions League spot as they currently reside two points adrift of fourth-placed Manchester United.

The result of this particular fixture could come down to fitness and preparation as City manager Manuel Pellegrini has had an extra 48 hours to get his team ready, while Brendan Rodgers's side have been putting extra work in the Europa League.

Physically, the Reds could be drained following their exploits in Turkey on Thursday night, but they could be mentally affected as well after losing to Besiktas in a penalty shootout.

Despite their Europa League exit, the Merseyside outfit have revived their Premier League season by going 10 games unbeaten in the top flight.

The fast-paced attacking movement of last season appears to be coming back into the Liverpool side, and the return of injury-plagued Daniel Sturridge has boosted that further.

The goals have been coming more freely, and their defence has tightened up significantly over the last few games after Rodgers began using a back three.

In the league, goalkeeper Simon Mignolet has conceded just five goals in nine games after coming back into the fold against Burnley following a short stint out of the team.

As for City, they went through a four-game period in the league where they could not pick up a victory, but in the last two fixtures, they secured a 4-1 triumph over Stoke City and a 5-0 rout over Newcastle United.

Pellegrini's men are also experiencing their own European hangover, having suffered a 2-1 defeat to Barcelona in the first leg of their last-16 Champions League tie on Tuesday evening.

Sergio Aguero's goal has given City a lifeline, but they face an uphill task to qualify for the quarter-finals when they travel to Camp Nou next month.

City's goal threat is ever-present at the moment having netted 11 in their last four league games, but they have kept just two clean sheets in their last 10 top-flight outings, which Liverpool could exploit.

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has been absent with a hamstring injury for the last fortnight and it is unlikely that the midfielder will start against the English champions on Sunday.

The game could also be too early for defender Mamadou Sakho, who is due to return to training on Saturday following a hip injury, which means that Dejan Lovren could keep his place in the back three despite missing a penalty against Besiktas on Thursday.

Jordan Henderson missed the trip to Turkey with a minor ankle injury, but is expected to be fit for this weekend's game, while Philippe Coutinho should be refreshed after he also missed the Europa League outing.

Pellegrini is expected to recall Yaya Toure to the side after the midfielder missed the Champions League action due to suspension, while Wilfried Bony could be handed his first start since featuring against Newcastle last weekend.

Aguero is likely to lead the line, while Fernandinho could partner Toure in the middle of the park, with Samir Nasri and David Silva providing attacking threat.


Form in Premier League: WWWDWW
Form in all competitions: DWWWWL

Possible starting lineup: Mignolet; Can, Skrtel, Lovren; Moreno, Allen, Henderson, Markovic; Coutinho, Sterling, Sturridge

Manchester City:

Form in Premier League: DLDDWW
Form in all competitions: LDDWWL

Possible starting lineup: Hart; Kolarov, Mangala, Kompany, Zabaleta; Silva, Fernandinho, Toure, Nasri; Bony, Aguero

Sports Mole says: 1-2

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Mario Balotelli of Liverpool scores the opening goal from the penalty spot during the UEFA Europa League Round of 32 match against Besiktas on February 19, 2015
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