Brendan Rodgers claims there is no pressure on his side heading into Sunday’s Premier League title showdown against Manchester City on Sunday. Leaders Liverpool go into the clash at Anfield four points clear of their opponents in the table, but with City having two games in hand.
It is a position few people envisaged Liverpool to be in having finished seventh last season and with the limit of their realistic ambitions this campaign being to secure a return to the Champions League. Rodgers has played down his side’s title chances for much of the campaign and continues to stress that they aren’t burdened by expectation.
“There is lots of talk about pressure, but for us it's exciting," he said, according to Liverpool’s official website. "We're enjoying it, the players are very focused and there's certainly no nerves.”
“For us, it's not about this one game or this one season, it's hopefully going to be over a period of many years. We're a club that has a strong identity and a strong football philosophy of how we want to work. That's something we're very proud of and hope to cultivate and grow over the years to come.”
Adding to Liverpool’s relaxed mindset is the fact that they have an almost clean bill of health for Saturday’s contest. Daniel Agger has returned to fitness after missing last week’s 2-1 victory over West Ham with a knee injury. Long-term absentee Jose Enrique is the only player unavailable.
Manchester City also have just one absentee in Matija Nastasic. And, like Liverpool, City have received a considerable fitness boost, with Sergio Aguero ready to return after a month out. City have performed well in his absence using a lone-striker formation, taking 13 points from a possible 15, and it remains to be seen whether the Argentine will return to the starting lineup or begin on the bench.
“Sergio is OK,” manager Manuel Pellegrini said in his pre-match press conference. “He worked the whole week with the squad normally, so he doesn’t have any problem. He’s very important. We know that Sergio is a top player, he’s a player that is very different for the other defenses to stop him.”
City, who beat Liverpool at the Etihad earlier in the season, would appear to have the easier run-in following the match at Anfield. Of City’s final six matches, four of them are at home and only one against a team in the top half of the table. But Pellegrini does not believe that Saturday’s match will decide the destination of the title.
“The biggest game is every week for me,” he explained. “It’s not a game that will decide the title. It’s a very important game, but we can beat Liverpool and after if we lose against Sunderland, West Brom, we are not going to win the title. So it’s a very important game because we play the team that is top of the table, but if we think that this game is more important than next Wednesday we are not going to win the title.”
Where to watch: The Barclays Premier League match will kick off at 8.37 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by NBCSN, with a live stream available on NBC Sports Live Extra.