Striker Sergio Aguero is ready for the challenge of Liverpool, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has warned.
Top scorer Aguero has missed City's last four games after being sent off for a wild tackle on Chelsea's David Luiz earlier this month.
During his enforced break - a second suspension of the season after being hit with a three-game ban in August - Aguero has spent some time resting back at home in Argentina.
But now the 28-year-old is back and looking to add to his season's 16-goal tally in this evening's eagerly-anticipated Premier League clash at title rivals Liverpool.
"He is ready," Guardiola said. "He came back good from Argentina - finally back after seven games banned, three games plus four - and we are happy he is back." The New Year's Eve clash at Anfield pits third-placed City against the side immediately above them. It will also be the first time Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp, two of the Premier League's elite managers and rivals from spells in Germany, have faced each other in England.
The anticipation is heightened as Liverpool are the competition's highest scorers so far this season with 45 goals, while City's 39 is the joint-second highest tally.
Guardiola attended Liverpool's 4-1 win over Stoke on Tuesday and rates the Reds as "contenders, definitely".
He added: "I was lucky to play against Jurgen Klopp. I think we know each other quite well and I saw Liverpool this year many times. There are six teams fighting for the title, especially for the first four positions, for the Champions League qualification. I see the contenders as really tough teams. It will be a good fight until the end of the season.
"I don't know what will happen. We have to equal their intensity, of course. Anfield will play a big role for them."
Defender John Stones could feature despite limping off during the first half of City's hard-fought win at Hull on St Stephen's Day. "John is much, much better," said Guardiola. The Spaniard, speaking at his pre-match press conference, dismissed reports linking City with a move for Real Madrid playmaker Isco. "I have no idea," the former Barcelona boss said.
Meanwhile, Klopp believes defence could be the deciding factor when City visit.
"I think it will be a little bit about how we protect our own attacks because both teams are pretty good on the counter-attack," said the German, who enjoyed 4-1 and 3-0 league victories over City last season.
"Both teams are good in possession so we have to defend at our highest level. The detail will make the difference.
"It is nice to think about what you can do in the game and what you want.
"They have got better since last year but we are getting better too. It will be a different game to last year. We cannot play like last year, they will not play like last year."