BIG MATCH

EPL: Liverpool v Man City - You'll never score alone

Liverpool's Jordan Henderson celebrates his second goal against Swansea with Glen Johnson (right) during their English Premier League soccer match at Anfield in Liverpool, northern England, February 23, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Liverpool's Jordan Henderson celebrates his second goal against Swansea with Glen Johnson (right) during their English Premier League soccer match at Anfield in Liverpool, northern England, February 23, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

Expect goals in crucial Anfield clash, with both teams finding the net freely

Season-defining games can be tight, tense affairs. Not this, however. Anfield's biggest match since the 2008 Champions League semi-final - against Chelsea - comes with such a guarantee of goals.

Between them, Liverpool and Manchester City have struck 174 times in the league alone.

In 21 previous Premier League seasons, only one team - Chelsea's class of 2009-10 - have recorded a century. Now, both of these sides might.

It is a reason why any scoreline is feasible. Both, with five wins apiece against top-seven sides by at least three goals, have shown an ability to thrash the best.

Yet, the other certainty is that one free-scoring side will end up disappointed. They cannot both be champions. Something has to give and even if the points are shared tomorrow, it will mean that Liverpool's nine-match winning run is halted and, since City have two games in hand, their destiny is removed from their hands.

Manuel Pellegrini has insisted his team will not play for a draw. It is not in their nature.

If attack is their best form of defence, it is not the only one. While Liverpool have scored 32 goals in their last nine league games, City have conceded only two in seven.

Now, they meet Liverpool's deadly Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge. If Suarez versus Vincent Kompany is the division's finest forward against its dominant defender, the greater focus is on the Belgian's erratic sidekick.

Can Martin Demichelis, often seen as Pellegrini's folly, thwart the EPL's deadliest strike duo?

City have spent more than £500 million (S$1.1 billion) in transfer fees since Sheikh Mansour's 2008 takeover. Sturridge left in 2009 for just £3.5 million.

By Premier League standards, Liverpool are the cut-price challengers, City the moneyed club.

Liverpool are the aristocratic power, City the nouveau riche.

On the pitch, progressive passers and eager attackers are separated by their tactics. Even with Sergio Aguero fit again, it is a safe assumption Pellegrini will persist with his 4-2-3-1 system.

Brendan Rodgers has played five formations this season, alternating of late between 4-3-3 and a midfield diamond. He will be scrutinising City for any frailties, looking to outnumber them in midfield and, probably, planning another blisteringly quick start.

Pellegrini, meanwhile, aims to emulate another South American.

Southampton's Mauricio Pochettino is the only visiting manager to win at Anfield this season.

Victory tomorrow will remove a big obstacle standing in City's quest to wrap up the EPL title in Pellegrini's first season.

For Reds fans, a win will propel their side closer to ending a long 24-year wait to be the best in the land.

stsports@sph.com.sg

Liverpool v Manchester City

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