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Liverpool open up Carling Cup semi-final draw at Man City

Liverpool kick off the first leg of the Carling Cup semi-final on Wednesday when they pay a visit to Eastlands to take on Manchester City.

Some big names will be missing from both sides, as Liverpool striker Luis Suarez and City captain Vincent Kompany will miss through suspension, and Kolo and Yaya Toure will miss as they join the Ivory Coast for the Africa Cup of Nations.

Injuries have started to mount for the Citizens as well, as both strikers Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli are banged up, and David Silva was substituted early in the club’s 3-2 defeat against Manchester United in the third round of the FA Cup (although the Spaniard is expected to play).

Liverpool are coming into this round having beat Chelsea 2-0 at Stamford Bridge in November. Second half goals from Maxi Rodriguez and Martin Kelly – his first professional goal – saw the visitors walk out victorious in the match that also saw Lucas Leiva injured for the season.

Meanwhile, City come into this round with a 1-0 victory at the Emirates thanks Sergio Aguero’s goal six minutes from time. The Argentinean forward has been excellent for City all season, making a very smooth transition to the Premier League. Aguero has found the back of the net 17 times and has tallied 5 assists in just 27 appearances in all competitions.

If Kenny Dalglish’s FA Cup selection was anything to go by, the Reds should be coming into the match with a strong lineup. A lot of fringe players got run outs in the 5-1 victory over Oldham last Friday, giving much needed rest to the league’s second best defense (Manchester City has the best).

Key to Liverpool’s lineup will be captain Steven Gerrard, who played a full 90 minutes against Oldham and scored from the spot. Gerrard is still regaining fitness after two injury spells, and it remains to be seen whether Dalglish will give him two starts on four days’ rest.

Blue Moon will also be coming into the match with doubt, as the club will be will be short two CBs in captain Vincent Kompany (suspension) and Kolo Toure (international duty). Joleon Lescott will slot in, but who his partner will be for the match will be up for grabs. All likelihood points to Stefan Savic stepping in and filling the void.

From an attacking perspective, Dalglish might find himself with a headache selection, and not necessarily a good one. Dirk Kuyt has not played like the player he was last season, Andy Carroll is still struggling to fit into the attack, and Suarez is still suspended, much to the pleasure of opposition defenders. Craig Bellamy is coming off a Man of the Match performance against Oldham, but he might be playing on the wing, where he can use his pace, leaving Carroll likely to play as a lone striker (unless he’s partnered with Bellamy).

But how both Dalglish and Roberto Mancini set their respective sides up will be key in the first leg. City have the better squad, but Liverpool will certainly get a boost from Gerrard – even if he only comes off the bench.

With the game being played over two legs, Liverpool have a slight advantage despite City’s superior squad. If Liverpool can get a win or draw at the Etihad, the Reds will be the favorites going into the return leg at Anfield. If City walk out winners, away goals will be crucial. With City’s missing players, I’m going with Liverpool grinding one out, maintaining possession, and keeping Kun Aguero under wraps and choking off his supply by crowding the midfield.

Prediction: Manchester City 1-2 Liverpool

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