I think the expectations of some fans have risen above what they should. These two games won’t define our season but will set the expectations of supporters for the rest of it.
I have seen people on social media saying a title challenge depends of these games. I can see where they’re coming from; if we somehow managed to bag 6 points then I think we could dare to dream of placing somewhere in the top 3, but this season 4th is the only priority for me. Jumping from 7th to 1st or 2nd will be too much of a big step in my opinion.
Let’s start with a tough fixture against City. Liverpool fans should not expect much, but be optimistic. City are the highest scorers in the league with 51 goals; averaging 3 goals per game. Vincent Kompany has recently returned who we all know is top class. They are undefeated at home in the league and have shown they can score numerous goals at the Etihad; thrashing the likes of Norwich 7-0, and slotting 6 past Arsenal and Spurs. Luckily for us they are missing Zabaleta, Richards and Aguero, with Jovetic and Nastasic doubtful.
With the way we have been playing, and with Suarez being absolutely sublime, we can go there and definitely get a draw if we play with the same intensity and boldness that we did against Spurs, but I wouldn't be too disheartened with a loss.
Onto Chelsea and I am feeling more confident with this one. Chelsea look fragile at the back, whilst in turn we look superb in the attack. They have leaked three goals to Stoke and Sunderland, two to WBA and Newcastle and a further two to Sunderland in the League cup. On the whole, Chelsea haven’t convinced me this season to be a title winning team and I feel as long as we take the game to them from the start I think we can obtain the three points. We always seem to do well at Stamford Bridge!
That’s 3/4 points leaving us with 39/40 after 19 games. That would stand us in good stead for 2014.
On December 1 we had a very disappointing display away at Hull City and there was a real worry that our form was going into decline. Since that loss, however, the team has shown what it is capable of and now finds itself top of the table.
People like Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson and Joe Allen have put in some excellent displays, whilst Luis Suarez has now unquestionably become one of the world's best players. When you have him in your team, you can achieve anything. Since Hull, Suarez has played four games and scored nine goals, a remarkable return for anyone in football.
Suarez may be in great form, but so are Manchester City. Unbeaten in their last nine, including a fantastic win at the Allianz Arena where they came from two goals down to win 3-2 at the home of the German, European & now World Club Champions so we will have to be on top form to get any sort of result at the Etihad. But on our side are the most inform striker in world football and in my opinion, the best goalkeeper in the league in Simon Mignolet.
Chelsea on the other hand could be a completely different game. Yes they have a fantastic squad with superb depth and one of the best managers in world football, but Chelsea have been so unpredictable this season and have lost three times in the league this season. They are still unbeaten at home though, helped by a few dodgy decisions here and there. Ramires vs West Brom for example.
It all depends on how we line up in my opinion, some days everything just seems right, but on another day you feel after five minutes that the passing, shooting, movement etc is off and we look leggy, which never bodes well in the Premier League. We could be top of the league going into these two games so that puts us in good stead. I feel a realistic expectation is 4/6 points, a win at Chelsea and a draw at City.
The Arsenal Chelsea stalemate allowed us to celebrate being top at Christmas and sparked a Twitter and Facebook eruption of people scrambling for stats. Most notably: those at the top on Christmas day have finished in the top four in all of the past 15 seasons.
But Liverpool won’t care about stats they’ll be focusing on running off their Christmas turkeys in their most perilous away game of the season at the Etihad. City have been irresistible at home and have not only knocked a shed full of goals past Norwich, something we are very used to, but have also pummelled six past Arsenal and Spurs in extravagant fashion.
This fixture has had a trend of ending 2-2 in recent years but this time around I don’t think we’ll be so lucky. The current form of our midfield and attack is promising and I think we’ll get a goal or two, more than likely coming from everybody’s dream team captain Suarez, but our defensive frailties will cost us more than ever at the home of the Citizens. We are boosted by City not being able to field the firepower of Aguero, and usually-reliable fullback Zabaleta which will likely see them start with Clichy and Kolarov once again.
This will be our chance I think, exploiting our pace out wide and then feeding our killer instincts in the middle. We’ll give them a better game than anyone else so far but I can only predict a 3-2 or 4-2 City win with an optimistic point available.
You’d think we’d have better chance at Stamford Bridge? Well let me refer to statistics once more: Chelsea have not lost a Premier League game at home under the management of Mourinho. Can Liverpool break his record? Of course we can. Liverpool always go to Chelsea and put on a show and the blues don’t particularly like us as guests. They haven’t been very convincing this season and I think we can take something here. A point is fine. A win is a bonus and a statement.
Two difficult games, two points will be an accomplishment.