Liverpool and Manchester City lock horns again at Anfield tonight, just three days after Manuel Pellegrini’s men pipped the Reds to the Capital One Cup in a dramatic penalty shootout.
Jurgen Klopp’s side were the unfortunate losers in the spot-kick lottery and will look to exact some revenge on the Citizens by landing a huge blow to their Premier League title ambitions.
The Merseyside outfit know that they can beat the Blues, having won three of their last four league meetings, and hammered them 4-1 at the Etihad Stadium in November’s reverse fixture.
Here, CaughtOffside predicts the respective starting lineups for the instant Wembley rematch…
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Simon Mignolet had quite a day out at Wembley. The Belgian’s howler gifted Fernandinho City’s normal-time goal, but he then produced three excellent saves to help Liverpool force a shootout.
According to The Mirror, Mignolet’s latest gaffe has convinced Klopp that he needs to sign a new goalkeeper in the summer, but the 27-year-old’s place is not under immediate threat.
The Reds could field a completely different centre-back partnership to Sunday’s pairing of Mamadou Sakho and Lucas, both of whom are major doubts with cup final knocks, according to the Echo.
Sakho was forced off midway through the first half after a nasty clash of heads with Emre Can. Lucas was a warrior and completed 120 minutes, before injuring a muscle taking a penalty, the Echo reports.
Sky Sports report that Dejan Lovren and Martin Skrtel, along with Joe Allen, returned to training last week and therefore one of Klopp’s senior defenders could be ready to deputise. Lovren has had a shorter layoff than Skrtel’s two months, and his left foot would balance the back line alongside Kolo Toure.
Alberto Moreno has been slammed by Liverpool hero Jamie Carragher for his Wembley display, as the Metro reports, but the full-backs are likely to remain unchanged despite Jon Flanagan being available.
Allen’s return bolsters Klopp’s midfield options, but Can, Jordan Henderson and James Milner should all be retained, with the German international the deepest of the three, sitting in front of the defence.
Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino combined to devastating affect at Eastlands earlier this season. Daniel Sturridge will probably drop out of the front line after suffering from cramp towards the end of his 120 minutes at the weekend. Striker Divock Origi might pip Adam Lallana for his spot in attack.
It is back to the reality of the substitutes’ bench for Willy Caballero after his Wembley exploits. The back-up goalkeeper was City’s penalty hero with three great saves, but is certain to make way for Joe Hart for Premier League duty. In fact, domestic cup keeper Caballero may not play again this season!
Pellegrini is unlikely to make many changes to a defence which has been reinforced by the return of influential skipper Vincent Kompany, although he may take the opportunity to recall left-back Aleksander Kolarov in place of Gael Clichy, who has played two demanding games in the past week.
Yaya Toure nestled the winning spot kick at Wembley, but may not be around to torture Liverpool again because of a foot injury, according to Goal.com. Fernando and Fernandinho should therefore be the central-midfield partnership, with Fabian Delph another option unavailable to Pellegrini.
Toure dropping out of the side means that Jesus Navas could be restored for his first start since January on the right, with David Silva shifted back inside to the central role from which he can dictate games.
Former Liverpool star Raheem Sterling is poised for a very hostile first appearance back at Anfield since forcing a controversial move to the Citizens last summer. Sergio Aguero completes the front four.
Kevin de Bruyne has told BBC Sport that he is still five weeks away from a comeback, but Wilfried Bony and Kelechi Iheanacho will give the visitors some firepower to call on from the bench if needed.
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