Pellegrini insists Reds far more than just Suarez
City boss braced for huge test against high-flying Merseysiders
The most exciting team in the Premier League face the most exciting player today, in what will surely be the defining game of the Christmas period.
Manchester City and Liverpool are the two top-scoring teams in the league, far ahead of Arsenal and Chelsea, and -- excepting Everton -- the two in the best recent form.
City have been compelling at the Etihad Stadium so far this season, with eight wins and 35 goals from their eight home games.
They put six past Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur and scored four against Manchester United and Newcastle United. Much of that, though, owed to Sergio Aguero, who will be missing today with a calf injury.
Liverpool will be armed with the one player in the league even more dangerous and relentless than Aguero. Luis Suarez has scored an astonishing 19 league goals so far this season in just 12 games -- more goals, in fewer games, than 11 Premier League teams, including Tottenham.
Brendan Rodgers believes Suarez can break the Premier League record of 34 goals set by Andy Cole and then Alan Shearer in the 42-game seasons of the early 1990s. The 38-game record of 31 goals set by Shearer and matched by Cristiano Ronaldo should be well within his reach. "He can do, because he has got that quality," Rodgers said. "He will certainly push it close."
Liverpool will take confidence from their two games against City last year, when they had the better of two 2-2 draws. "We arrive there with no fear," added Rodgers. "We outplayed them last year, home and away. We had two draws and we should have won both games. But we will go there with every respect for them."
City manager, Manuel Pellegrini, insisted that Liverpool's threat extended beyond Suarez. "He is in a very good moment. He has always been a very good striker. But Liverpool is not only Suarez.
"They are a good team, it will be a tough game and we hope we can continue winning at home. We are not playing against Liverpool thinking of Luis Suarez. We are playing against Liverpool thinking we must repeat what we are doing at home."
Pellegrini is unhappy, however, with the festive fixture schedulers for making his team play two games in three days when rivals Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea will all have an extra day's rest.
City play Liverpool today and Crystal Palace at home on Saturday, while Liverpool are at Chelsea on Sunday and Arsenal play at Newcastle.
"It's not fair, it should be the same for all teams," Pellegrini said.
"I don't know if the word is ridiculous, but playing 46 hours from one game to another is not the best thing for the players -- they cannot recover in 46 hours. All the teams must have the same rest. Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea, Liverpool all of them play after (December) 26 and 29. And we play 26 and 28."
The assumption of a team of City's calibre would be that relegation-threatened Palace will be dispatched comfortably.
But first Pellegrini's men put their 100pc home record on the line in the ninth Premier League fixture at the Etihad Stadium against Liverpool and Suarez.
To some, Liverpool are a surprise package in the title race. Not for Pellegrini.
He added: "Every team has the chance to win the Premier League. The Premier League is not only Liverpool and Manchester City; Tottenham will continue fighting.
"Manchester United, Arsenal and Everton are playing good football and will fight for the title until the end."
Pellegrini has already confirmed Joe Hart will continue in goal against the Reds after making his first Premier League start in almost two months in the win at Fulham.
Changes will be expected against Palace, but the priority for the Chilean is Liverpool. "First of all we have to beat Liverpool, then we see what we will do against Crystal Palace. It's not easy to repeat the same team in 44 hours," he said. (© Independent News Service)
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