A decisive period awaits. Beginning tomorrow, City will play eight games in 32 days, over one-fifth of the entire season. It looks fiendishly difficult, with two games against Liverpool scarcely being leavened by the trip to Arsenal and hosting the champions. Hell, Swansea away is hard enough. And then there’s the trip to West Brom. Um
But first, Liverpool. It’s been a good season for them so far, positioned nicely in second place. It may be a little optimistic to think they can win the League, for Arsenal are now seven points clear and it’s hard not to imagine the Manchester clubs making a strong challenge in the second half of the season. Nonetheless, after a few relatively poor seasons, their overall trajectory is upwards. That’s mainly on the back of strong home form – though their record of two wins and three draws from six away is hardly poor.
Grounds for optimism? Well, they’re a trifle leaky on the road, shipping ten in those six games. They’ll also be without Daniel Sturridge, who’s impressed this season.
And of course, City are no pushover. Form has dipped and the Palace defeat was pretty rotten, but we didn’t reach the top half of the table by being out of place in this division. In previous games against the better sides we’ve acquitted ourselves very well – more observant officiating at Goodison Park and White Hart Lane may have prevented at least one of those losses, while only poor finishing cost us at Man C. So despite ongoing travails in front of goal and our recent struggles, it’d be nice to think City can get themselves up for this one.
Whether the absence of Sturridge will impact Steve Bruce’s selection is unclear. With Paul McShane missing for the rest of 2013 and James Chester not yet fit to start, it seems to be between Alex Bruce and Abdoulaye Faye to partner Curtis Davies in defence. Meanwhile, last week’s thoroughly tepid showing against Palace will put more than a couple of places under threat – Koren looks vulnerable after an anonymous afternoon.
It may be advisable not to spend too much time glancing through the history books. Not once have City beaten Liverpool in 16 attempts, dating back to 1954, a run that’s seen Liverpool win a dozen. The nearest was just under four years ago, when City led 2-0 at Anfield during that unfathomably glorious period in 2008, only to be pegged back. At least there are usually goals, albeit rather unequally distributed – save for our last and goalless meeting, each of the previous six fixtures yielded a minimum of four goals.
So what chance City? We may as well seek the win. A victory tomorrow would reignite the whole season and leave us relishing the challenges to come. It’s fair to say the bookies don’t anticipate a surprise result, with City as long as 11/2 to win. A draw is being offered at 3/1, while at 8/13 Liverpool are huge favourites. It’s tempting to think that even an improved performance will be something – and it would certainly be welcome. If Liverpool turn up and play well, chances are we won’t be adding to our points tally. But anyone can have an off-day, and if they do, you never know.