The heat was certainly on Manchester City at Anfield on Monday night as they looked to secure a top four spot and a place in next season’s Champions League. The last two trips along the East Lancashire Road to face Liverpool have resulted in draws and the Blues have not won there since a Nicolas Anelka strike in May, 2003 denied the Reds a place in the Champions League.
A win for the blue half of Manchester meant they would leapfrog Chelsea into third place in the table, while a win for the Reds would extend their lead over cross-city rivals, Everton. However, having taken just two points from the last five away games – the last victory on the road was at Newcastle on Boxing Day – the omens were not good for Roberto Mancini’s men. And so it proved.
A rampant Liverpool tore the City defence to shreds in a devastating opening 45 minutes to seal a 3-0 victory with goals from Andy Carroll (2) and Dirk Kuyt. To complete a miserable evening Carlos Tevez limped off with a torn hamstring after 15 minutes and must be considered extremely doubtful for Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final with Manchester United at Wembley.
After the game Mancini refused to blame his players and admitted the defeat was down to him and he had “made
Perhaps the biggest clue was the reaction of James Milner, who was chosen in central midfield, to being replaced by David Silva on the hour mark. A bench also containing Pablo Zabaleta, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Mario Balotelli, and Nigel de Jong seemed to suggest the Italian had one eye on the United clash, yet his team selection has at times this season appeared baffling to fans. Quite why striker Balotelli was withdrawn near the end in favour of midfielder de Jong with City three goals in arrears was particularly perplexing.
Meanwhile, Mancini is reported to be keeping tabs on Bolton Wanderers’ England defender Gary Cahill and, alongside assistant David Platt and one of the club’s scouts, ran the rule over the 25-year-old in Bolton’s 3-0 victory over West Ham United on Saturday. Bolton are willing to sell in the summer, and City have told them they are interested in a player whose value would be around the £20m mark. Even so, there will no shortage of suitors with Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and his former club Aston Villa all thought to be keen.