Liverpool's Dirk Kuyt ready to reel in arch rivals Manchester City

20 February 2010 05:48
The match between Manchester City and Liverpool on Sunday afternoon is set up to be one of those highly-charged tipping points.

In the race for fourth, and the guaranteed wealth it brings with qualification for the Champions League, this is a fixture that will shape the run-in.

With reports suggesting Craig Bellamy has fallen out with Roberto Mancini (denied by the City manager), Carlos Tevez on indefinite compassionate leave in Argentina after the premature birth of his child and Patrick Vieira suspended for three matches for violent conduct against Stoke last week, City could do with some good news.

Liverpool, meanwhile, have been making what might kindly be called attritional progress up the table, returning to stability after a miserable winter.

Thursday night's win over Romanian club Unirea in the Europa League was soul-sappingly dull but it brought with it another clean sheet, meaning Liverpool have conceded just once in nine hours.

Going into the weekend, Manchester City were in possession of fourth spot, a point above Liverpool with a game in hand. Both managers will judged on whether they achieve Champions League qualification for next season.

Needless to say, both clubs are feeling the pressure.

"It's just a really big game and if we can win this game we will be back in it and if we lose it we have a big problem," said Dirk Kuyt, Liverpool's industrious wide midfielder.

"We all look back a couple of months ago and we would have preferred to be in a better position than this position but at the end of the day it is what it is and we have to try and win this game and try to finish in the top four and we think we have the quality to do that."

This game also represents a larger struggle. When people reflect on the history of these two clubs in the future, this could be seen as a transition season.

Liverpool is a club struggling to hang on to its grand status, undermined by owners who have plunged the club into debt and by a lack of direction for the future. City, by contrast, are growing by the week, seeking to become a European superclub.

The change in status can be measured by the transfer of Gareth Barry to Eastlands last summer. He had long been courted by Liverpool after being identified as a replacement for Xabi Alonso but ended up choosing City when he eventually left Aston Villa.

Sure, he would earn more money with City but Barry is no fool and he was as much sold on the ambition coursing through his new club.

Liverpool's players have come out in proud defence of their club this week, though. There is no question that pulling on the red shirt and playing at Anfield still has an iconic cachet that is a draw for players with a sense of the history of the game.

Kuyt added: "The history of Liverpool is much, much bigger and every now and again you see clubs doing things like Manchester City now and Chelsea a few years ago. It happens but it's very difficult to buy the history of Liverpool.

"I don't know whether more players will join City for the money. For every player it's a different situation. I think the most important thing for a player is to win trophies and be successful as a football player.

"I think at the moment players think they can win trophies with Manchester City and of course they will always think about their family and money, but I don't think that's the main concern for most players.

"I think everything can help in football and experience is very important but for us the most important thing is we can look at ourselves as a lot better now than a couple of months ago. So that will give us confidence for Sunday. It is a big battle but everybody is looking forward to these kind of games.

"We have the experience to come from this position and the most important thing is we are on a good run without conceding many goals. We are winning games in a row and that is giving us confidence that we can do it. We will be ready."

Source: Telegraph