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Time to Shine: Liverpool v City Preview

Liverpool look to stay top of the league in a Boxing Day clash against City

Clive Rose

Thursday, 12/26 at Etihad Stadium

US: NBC Sports 12:30pm ET

UK: BT Sport1 5:30pm

How good is Brendan Rodgers? Well we'll find out after this match. Liverpool, plagued with injuries, are heading to the Ethiad for what will be an extremely difficult match against City. With the Chelski game coming right after, this is a tough stretch at the wrong time. That said, with Suarez absolutely on fire and City showing vulnerabilities in defense, Liverpool do have a good chance of coming out of this with at least one point.

City will be looking to make a statement of intent. They have a penchant for thrashing opponents at home, and Liverpool's defense will truly be tested with Skrtel's Jujitsu a potential liability in the back. City though are without their biggest scoring threat, Aguero, who is out for at least a couple more weeks. However, as they showed against Fulham, they can win any sort of shootout type match despite a defense that is vulnerable, hardly looking like the brick wall it was when they won the league.

If you've been living under a rock for the last few weeks, Liverpool will be without the services of Sturridge, Gerrard, and Enrique. While Flanagan has been fantastic filling in for Enrique, he is still a bit young and there are some questions about his fitness as well due to a hamstring problem. Henderson has stepped up his game fantastically along with Coutinho, which has helped fill the void left by Sturridge. Specifically, Henderson's movement has been fantastic and vital to opening up the defense for Suarez to shine just as Sturridge did. However, it is still hard to replace the leadership Stevie brings in massive matches like this.

So what are we likely to see? Well, I wouldn't expect it to be pretty. City have been unbelievable at home this year, scoring 35 goals at home to just 16 away. Somehow, their defense has been just as bipolar only allowing 5 at home while allowing 15 away bringing a whole new meaning to home sweet home. It will be all Liverpool can do to eek out a draw which, let's be honest, we'll all be happy with. Otherwise, just cross your fingers and hope for a Boxing Day miracle.

Our pre-match thoughts:

-Mignolet has seen little action recently. He'll need to be on his toes and pull out one of those performances of early on that so quickly endeared him to the Kop. (Adam)

-This one is a head-scratcher has far as formations go. Yaya Toure is such a massive presence in the midfield he may require two men to stop him. Given all the injuries, a 4-5-1 may be the way to go in order to try to get a hold of the midfield. (Adam)

-Please please please, start Agger over Skrtel. I think everyone knows why I say that. (Adam)

-On a real positive note for Liverpool, this match against City and the following match against Chelsea mark the last significant away fixtures of the season besides going to visit a sub par Manchester United side in the spring. It's hard to believe, but we've already visited Everton, Tottenham, Arsenal, and are obviously about to see City and Chelsea. If we're in first place facing the relatively easy 2014 schedule at the turn of the new year, it will be very impressive. (loyal2reds)

-Also, the Cardiff ratings had to be scrapped because of the lack of WiFi where I was staying until yesterday afternoon, so my apologies on that. (loyal2reds)

-Games are never easy, but, bar the Arsenal match, this one seems the hardest yet. In a conversation I had with Adam, we said to start Agger & Toure or Agger & Sakho, and I've not changed my tune. (JAceKopite16)

-I'm saddened to see Flanagan possibly out, but this means that we can employ all three of Agger, Skrtel, and Sakho.... It'll be interesting to see what we go with. (JAceKopite16)