Scotland V England Saturday 24th February. 4:45PM. BBC One Scotland v England renew their rivalry…
Manchester City V Liverpool
Monday 25th August. 8PM. Sky Sports 1
Monday Night Football comes from the Etihad as the champions open up their home campaign with the tricky visit of Liverpool.
This is easily the biggest match of the season as last year’s runners-up look to fire an early warning to City and the other title contenders.
It should be an absolute thriller.
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Reds Look To Show Strength Without Suarez
Nobody can argue with what Liverpool achieved last season as Brendan Rodgers dragged them from the mid-table obscurity back to Champions League football and very nearly cemented this biggest title shock in Premier League history.
However, the critics have already suggested that the Reds won’t be able to match those accomplishments now that star striker Luis Suarez has departed for Barcelona. That doesn’t necessarily mean they are right, though, and the Merseysiders will be out to prove a point at the Etihad.
Whilst Suarez may have left, Liverpool still boast one of the league’s top strikers in Daniel Sturridge and the England man capped the new season with a late winner to sink Southampton at Anfield last weekend. The 24-year-old now has 36 goals in 50 Reds appearances, which is a club record, and with the likes of Sterling and Coutinho in support the visitors have nothing to fear against Manchester City.
Additionally, Rogders has spent wisely this summer and the capture of Mario Balotelli is another signal of Liverpool’s intent. The madcap Italian won’t be ready to play against his former club but even still we can expect him to grab plenty of headlines in the coming weeks and months.
Liverpool showed last year that they are capable of mixing it with the top sides. City cannot afford to take this game lightly.
Champions To Fire Warning To Rivals
As good as Liverpool are, though, Manchester City remain the team to beat and Manuel Pellegrini’s men will be extremely confident on home turf.
The Citizens were almost unplayable at the Etihad in 2013/14, bulldozing their way through pretty much every challenge that stood before them. If they can continue dominate in a similar fashion at home then they’ll have a fantastic chance of retaining their crown and Pellegrini will demand a strong showing in this first major test of the campaign.
City were hardly at their best against Newcastle but still churned out a comfortable 2-0 win. Perhaps more frightening to their rivals, though, was that Sergio Aguero bagged his first goal of the season despite not entering the action until seven minutes from time. If the talismanic striker can stay fit then he could provide the difference in this year’s race for the title.
As well as Aguero, we expect to see compatriot Pablo Zabeleta return to the line-up whilst the likes of Fernandinho, James Milner and Jesus Nevas could all be considered for a starting berth. Pellegrini has a wealth of talent to choose from like no other manager in the Premier League and that should serve him well for Monday’s meeting.
City dropped just five points at home last season and registered an astonishing goal difference of +50. Expect the champions to come out all guns blazing against Liverpool.
We could be in for a classic.
Manchester City V Liverpool Betting
The Premier League champions are odds on favourites for this crucial clash and can be backed at 17/20 with Bet365. Meanwhile, the draw is available at 13/5 whilst the visitors are priced 3/1.
Liverpool proved throughout 2013/14 that they are a fantastic side. However, the summer loss of Suarez cannot be overlooked and that may prove to be the difference at the Etihad.
Although the Reds should be fine in the long-term, there were signs of rustiness against Southampton and they simply cannot afford to show these shortcomings against the champions. We’d back the hosts regardless of how Liverpool play, but if the visitors don’t bring their ‘A’ game then we could quite easily see City cruise to victory.
Manchester City -1 Asian handicap is 11/8 with Bet365
One of the chief reasons behind this being such a mouth-watering prospect is the large number of potential match winners on display. Perhaps none of those stars shine as brightly as Yaya Toure.
The Manchester City monster was already one of the Premier League’s best players but he propelled himself to the next level in 2013/14 by adding goals to his game. The Ivorian netted 20 league goals last term and could be a great shout to bag the opener here.
With Betfred offering Monday’s meeting as part of their ballyhooed ‘Double Delight/Hat-Trick Heaven’ promotion, it’s well worth backing the 31-year-old to score the campaign’s first goal at the Etihad.
Yaya Toure to score first is 13/2 with Betfred