In a week in which a great deal has been made of Manuel Pellegrini’s tactical naivety, I feel something needs to be made of the player’s performances, as they’ve managed to emerge from it all somewhat unscathed. At Anfield on Sunday, there was a glaring lack of desire exhibited by the players. This was worrying to see from a team aiming to win back-to-back Premier League titles. However, what made the team’s effort (or lack of effort I should say) all the more unpalatable, was the fact that Liverpool had played a grueling 120 minutes in Istanbul on Thursday night, before flying back in the early hours of Friday morning.
Dzeko or Bony?
Pellegrini has a lot of options ahead of tonight’s fixture, and he’s under pressure to get it right, with the fans rightly expecting a strong reaction from the team. Considering the fact that Pellegrini is likely to stick to his beloved, but recently exposed 4-4-2 formation means that the big decision ahead of tonight’s match is whether to go with the in-form Edin Dzeko, or the £27.5million pound man Wilfried Bony? Recent history suggests that Pellegrini will put his faith in the Bosnian, as Dzeko has two goals in his last two league appearances. On the other hand though, how much longer can you feasibly leave your big-money January signing on the bench? Wilfried Bony has made three consecutive substitute appearances and will surely be expecting a start sooner or later. It’s difficult to say who he’ll opt for, but my money would be on an Aguero-Dzeko partnership.
Should Kompany be dropped?
Aside from the striker debate though, there’s certainly a real case to be made for Kompany to be dropped. A few months ago, the prospect of leaving a fully fit Vincent Kompany on the bench would’ve been almost incomprehensible. But his poor recent form, and overeagerness to impress means that there’s a perfectly legitimate argument for taking him out of the limelight. Martin Demichelis has without doubt been the club’s best defender for about a year now, whilst Eliaquim Mangala has shown signs that he’s beginning to find his feet. However, knowing Pellegrini as we do, I don't think many Blues would attest to genuinely believing that Kompany will be dropped tonight, he’ll almost certainly start.
Samir Nasri’s poor showing on Sunday could trigger the return of Jesus Navas to the starting line-up, after a period on the sidelines. Whilst the forgotten man, Stevan Jovetic, will certainly have hopes of being included in the matchday squad for the first time since 7th of February. All in all, it’s very difficult to predict the starting line up in the current circumstances. However, here’s what I think Manuel Pellegrini will go with: