Liverpool: Mignolet, Clyne, Touré, Sakho, Moreno, Can, Milner, Henderson, Coutinho, Sturridge, Firmino
Manchester City: Caballero, Sagna, Kompany, Otamendi, Clichy, Fernando, Yaya Touré, Fernandinho, Silva, Sterling, Aguero
The first silverware of the season is up for grabs on Sunday but will the Capital One Cup Final see the start of Klopp’s tenure start with a bang or the end of Pellegrini’s time in charge with City at least the one trophy for the Chilean?
Despite the Capital One Cup final being on the horizon, Klopp fielded a strong side against Augsburg on Thursday evening. Whilst you can’t accuse him of taking the Europa League lightly, the injuries Klopp has had to deal with once more, does raise questions about how the squad will cope with a trip to Wembley? However, Sunday could see the return of Lovren, Lallanna, Allen and Martin Skrtel. Will these players walk straight back into side? That is harder to call as Klopp has fielded a more settled side in recent games but the German certainly will be happy to have some further options off the bench at Wembley this coming weekend.
One of Liverpool’s best performances under Klopp this season was at the Etihad when Liverpool ran out 4-1 winners and Klopp with a front three of Firmino, Coutinho and Lallanna. Replace Lallanna with Sturridge and Liverpool offer a much more potent threat going forward. Sturridge is still far and away the best striker at the club as Christian Benteke continues to falter at Anfield. Sturridge to Liverpool is what Kompany is to Manchester City, and whilst Daniel Sturridge didn’t score on Thursday night, he still represented Liverpool’s best player in his 60 minute cameo against Augsburg. Sturridge, with Coutinho, will once more need to take centre stage come Sunday afternoon for Liverpool if Klopp is to win his first trophy at the club.
Pellegrini risked the wrath of various parties through accusations of diminishing the value of the FA Cup last weekend when he fielded a collection of bright eyed and bushy tailed youngsters at Stamford Bridge. City lost 5-1 but what was significant about this game wasn’t the score line against Chelsea, it was more about the performance of the individuals, most notably Demichellis, Caballero and Fernando. Whilst Fernando was very much below par, he went some way to repaying Pellegrini by putting in a good shift in Kiev on Wednesday night. For Caballero (his selection this afternoon is baffling) and Demichellis, with Guardiola on the horizon, their respective Manchester City careers potentially don’t have much life left in them.
What all these changes did bring about however, was a squad well rested as they flew out to the Ukraine for Champions League duties. A 3-1 victory away from home is a commanding lead and with such a level of performance, it is hard to imagine that Pellegrini will ring wholesale changes against Liverpool on Sunday who would have had one less day to prepare for the game.
The return of Kompany, and playing Silva centrally should go underestimated in this performance and the return of the Belgian is a massive boost for City’s title run in. He oozes class at the back and City look ten times the side with him on the field than without him. Silva also looked more his fine self, and with Aguero getting sharper week by week, the Liverpool back line could have a difficult afternoon on their hands.
This game certainly will not follow the narrative of Liverpool’s performance at the Etihad. Liverpool still have a potent attacking threat but the lack of time on the training ground still means that their greatest weakness is defence and certainly with Kolo Touré starting at the back, Liverpool could potentially struggle with the pace City have to offer up front. City on the other hand will have ‘Vince the Prince’ lining up alongside Otamendi potentially and Kompany alone could be the difference between both teams.
Match Prediction: Liverpool 1-2 Manchester City
Rich, The Sweeper Football Blog