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Give Us Two Legs, Mister: Man City v. Liverpool (Leg 1)

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Yosemitesam_medium v. Liverbird_right_medium

KICKOFF: 2:45 EST, 7:45 BST
TV: FSC + for yanks, BBC 1 for Brits

Usually, in the earlier rounds, you keep your happiness to victories in check. If an exit occurs, it's always greeted with, "Eh, it's just the League Cup." But not now. Not so close to a Final, and not so close to a Final when your club hasn't won a trophy since 2006. I'm kind of tired of not seeing players clad in Liverpool red surrounded by confetti. Aren't you? if you've come this far, perhaps you're willing to go a little farther.

What could tell the tale tonight and over the two legs is how seriously Man City want to win this competition. In fact, tonight might determine what they do in the 2nd leg. If Liverpool take a lead back to Anfield, Mancini may decide not to sacrifice any league points in pursuit of the trophy on the lowest rung of priorities. He may even do so tonight.

Then again, he doesn't have much choice tonight in a lineup, as injured and off to Africa as it is. Both Toures are at the ANC, Vincent Kompany and his Man on Fire act from the last time these teams met is suspended after the red card against United, and there are injury concerns for Aguero, Dzeko, and Balotelli, as well as Silva. Gareth Barry does return, which usually I would laugh at but he's actually been in excellent form this season which only infuriates me more. Whatever.

Aguero started and led the line for ten men for most of the match against United, I can't imagine he makes it back for this one unless Mancini has no other options. Silva should be rested as well, though he came off at half against United and could feature. If both Aguero and Dzeko can't make the post, then I really have no clue who starts up top for City because Balotelli is very doubtful. Barry will certainly pair with De Jong, which is not as big of a dropoff as you might think with the Toures out.

Savic will have to come in for Kolo Toure and Vincent Kompany to pair with Joleon Lescott, and this is far from their strongest combination. I'm tired of asking for Andy Carroll to make a name for himself, but again, this would seem the opportunity.

As for the Reds, there's no question they're going to field their strongest lineup. The return of the back four we've come to know and love is assured. Midfield, things get hairy as they always do. Steven Gerrard, for some reason, played the full 90 against Oldham, and no one's sure if he can make it again in just five days (though I'm betting he does). Jay Spearing is the only thing resembling a holding midfielder, and while they might not need one at home against Stoke at the weekend, they do here. That leaves a choice between Henderson and Adam, and I think I know which way all of us lean. They'll probably both get a look, with one coming on for the other or Gerrard. Out wide? Again, another curious decision to have Craig Bellamy and his knees made out of dreams play the full match against Oldham, and he's even less likely to be able to go the route today. Maxi isn't as useful without Suarez, and Downing had himself a time and could be punished by not getting a start. Or maybe Kenny just wouldn't want to deal with the bullshit of starting him. Who knows? Kuyt has pretty much gone useless, and his lack of pace is a problem against this side. So, in so many words, I don't have a clue.

Liverpool have to get at least a draw to take into the 2nd leg. While they had a lion's share of possession last week when the were on display at Eastlands, they didn't do that much with it. They need to be as ruthless as City were. Even just one goal probably sets up for a fair shot in Leg 2, as long as they don't get silly in their own end, and Reina doesn't turn into Wacky Inflatable Arm Flailing Man again.