And so they meet again. Just three days after going head-to-head in the Capital One Cup final at Wembley, Liverpool face Man City this midweek with three points rather than a trophy the prize on offer to the victors (8pm Wednesday, BT Sport 1).
The two sides could not be separated after 120 minutes on Sunday, with Man City ultimately triumphing on penalties, with goalkeeper Willy Caballero making himself the hero by saving Lucas Leiva, Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana’s efforts from 12 yards.
In the end, it was probably a fair result: Manuel Pellegrini’s outfit created the better chances in normal time and should really have put the game to bed much earlier than they did, with Raheem Sterling (pictured) particularly guilty of wasting a couple of glorious opportunities against his former club.
While that victory will have given City an important psychological boost ahead of Wednesday’s encounter, they now need to show some consistency in the Premier League as they look to win their third title in five years.
Currently nine points behind leaders Leicester City, Pellegrini’s men cannot afford any more slip-ups as we enter the business end of the campaign, with Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and the Foxes all also battling it out for the championship. With Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Yaya Toure and Vincent Kompany now fully fit, there can be no more excuses for Man City if they concede further ground to the surprise frontrunners in the coming weeks.
Liverpool, conversely, are mainly playing for professional pride in the remaining two and a half months of the Premier League season. Nine points behind fourth-placed City, Champions League qualification is no longer a realistic objective, with Jurgen Klopp likely to be targeting a top-seven finish in his debut campaign in English football.
Much like their upcoming opponents, Liverpool have been dogged by inconsistency in 2015/16, with the Merseysiders yet to record back-to-back wins in the top flight this calendar year. Indeed, a return of just two victories in seven league games in 2016 is a rather disappointing one for Liverpool, who will be looking to close the gap on – or overtake, depending on other results – the likes of Stoke City and Southampton this midweek.
City will again be without Fabian Delph (calf), Samir Nasri (hamstring) and Kevin De Bruyne (knee) for the trip to Anfield, with Joe Hart likely to return between the sticks despite Cabellero’s match-winning heroics in the shoot-out on Sunday afternoon. Pellegrini may opt to continue with Fernandinho on the right hand-side of midfield and Fernando and Toure in the centre of the engine room, an arrangement that allows all three men to be squeezed into the same line-up and Silva to be fielded in his favoured No.10 position behind Aguero.
Liverpool, meanwhile, will be unable to call upon Jordan Rossiter, Martin Skrtel, Danny Ings and Joe Gomez, with Mamadou Sakho also a doubt after he was taken off in the first half of Sunday’s final with a head injury. Daniel Sturridge is likely to start up top once more, in which case £32.5 million summer signing Christian Benteke would have to make do with a place on the substitutes’ bench again.
While Liverpool have little left to play for in the league, Man City need all three points on Wednesday night to keep their title hopes alive. That incentive, together with their added quality, should be enough for the visitors to eke out a narrow victory at Anfield, with a 2-1 scoreline looking likely. It will probably be another close encounter, but City can come out on top against Liverpool for the second time in the same week.