Stats expert Joel Ramey identifies the key battles and tactics that will shape the outcome at the Etihad
Now trailing Manchester United by seven points, Roberto Mancini will surely be looking to City's home encounter with Liverpool as vital to their title hopes.
The Etihad has become a fortress for City in recent seasons. They've won 32 of their last 36 matches there and, so far this season, have conceded just nine goals - the fewest in the Premier League.
With 29 points from 12 games, their home record pales in comparison only to United's, who've gained four points more.
Even more encouraging for Mancini is the fact that the last time Liverpool visited this stadium in league play, City put three past them and rendered the Reds scoreless.
Mancini's men have kept clean sheets in their last four games and will be confident of keeping another on Sunday, even without Vincent Kompany, who has a calf strain.
As for seventh-placed Liverpool, a victory here would be just their first over a club in the top six this season.
"We have to start winning against the top teams if we want to achieve a better position," said Lucas Leiva. "The game against Arsenal was a real opportunity for us."
Liverpool's failure to hold on to their 2-0 lead at the Emirates was in keeping with the poor away form they've had this season. They've won just three times on their travels in 12 games and have conceded 20 goals, which is the second-highest - behind West Brom - among teams in the top half of the league.
Defensive lapses have proved Liverpool's undoing. If they are to beat City, they have to keep their concentration at the back.
Martin Skrtel is likely to replace Jamie Carragher there. This makes sense given the latter would be unable to cope with the pace of Sergio Aguero.
Both Skrtel and Daniel Agger are excellent in the air, winning 62% and 69% of their headed duels respectively. Edin Dzeko, however, has won just 49% of his. That in mind, attempting high balls to the Bosnian target man may prove futile.
Playing it along the ground seems more reasonable. Carlos Tevez has more guile on the ball and better movement off it than Dzeko and should therefore start.
This shouldn't bother Agger as he is quite comfortable on the ball. Skrtel, however, can be a bit clumsy. In fact, in the reverse fixture this season, he made a poor back pass which Tevez intercepted and used to ultimately help City steal a point.
Interestingly enough, Skrtel tends to play more backward passes than Agger. Here's an example from Liverpool's defeat to Manchester United in September 2012.
In fact, Skrtel has played 26% of his passes backward so far this season; Agger has played 19% backward. With Tevez ever willing to press opponents, enough pressure could force Skrtel into another errant back pass and what would be his sixth defensive error of the season.
Additionally, given Agger likes to venture up the field, Tevez can help catch him in possession and out of position.
Going forward, though, the blossoming combination of Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez should give City's defence a stern test. The improving Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling and new signing Philippe Coutinho coming off the bench also offer a threat.
Given the quality of both teams combined with the fact that both need the points, this should be an exciting game.
Stats courtesy of Squawka Sports
Joel Ramey is a freelance writer published by FourFourTwo, The Score’s Counter Attack blog, and others. You can follow him on Twitter @FlixandTrix
See where your team would be if games weren't 90mins
Another superb piece of football-geekery from @experimental361 (aka Ben Mayhew).
Play the video to see how your team would fare is games weren't 90 minutes...
Things to note:
- If matches ended in the 86th minute, Spurs would be top of the league. In the final four minutes (plus injury time) of matches, they drop six points and Man Utd gain nine. United have actually turned three draws into wins in the 90th minute so far this season.
- At the 71 minute mark, Southampton are in the top half.
- After 79 minutes Man City languish in 6th.
- If matches ended at half-time, Villa would be 7th and Reading would be 13 points better off.
For more brilliant football stats follow @experimental361
Liverpool create the most chances but United are the most clinical
Is your team creating the chances but just can't convert? Are you gifting the opposition opportunities by the dozen?
These fantastic graphs compiled by @experimental361 (aka Ben Mayhew) show just how wasteful your team may be or easily they give away goals.
- These plots show the number of shots taken or faced on the horizontal axis and the number of shots required to score or concede a goal on the vertical.
- The axes are centred on the averages for the division, splitting the teams into quadrants, with shaded areas of the plot show everything greater than one standard deviation from the average for each measure.
- QPR's wastefulness in front of goal is clearly visible - they've taken over 15 shots for each goal they've scored, compared to a divisional average of 9.3. Man Utd are the most clinical team, requiring an average of just 5.7 shots to find the net - nearly 3 less than rivals Man City, although City take an average of 2 more shots per match.
- Liverpool create the most goalscoring chances - nearly 5 more per match than the average and more than twice as many as Stoke, who create the fewest.
- Stoke may take the fewest shots in the division but there's no better team at repelling them - it takes almost 13 shots to breach their defence, which is twice as many as it takes to score past Southampton, the division's most porous side.
- Man City restrict their opponents to an average of just over 9 shots per match - the lowest in the division, although Arsenal and Spurs aren't far behind. Reading's defence have to face nearly double - 17 per match.
For more brilliant in-depth football stats follow @experimental361
All the best stats from the weekend's action
Sunderland v West Bromwich Albion
Zoltan Gera has now scored more goals this season (three) than any of his last five top-flight campaigns. Only in 2004/05 (six) has he netted more Premier League goals.
A league-high 47% of the goals West Brom have conceded this season have come in the final 15 minutes of games.
Sunderland had more shots on target than any other PL team this weekend (10 of their 32 in 2012-13 came v WBA).
Not a single WBA cross reached a team-mate on Saturday (excl. corners).
Everton v Norwich City
Sebastian Bassong scored his first Premier League goal since December 2010, when he netted for Tottenham against Birmingham City.
Steven Naismith has netted on each of his last three Premier League starts for the Toffees.
Grant Holt conceded a massive 11 free-kicks this weekend (six fouls, five offsides).
Manchester United v Queens Park Rangers
Man Utd conceded first for the 9th different Premier League game this season, only opponents in this game QPR have conceded the first goal as many times.
The Red Devils have now scored 10 headed goals this season, at least two more than any other side.
Ryan Nelsen made more interceptions than any other player this weekend, eight.
Stoke City v Fulham
Games at the Britannia this season have produced only six goals, fewer than any other Premier League ground.
Stoke fashioned five attempts from corers this weekend, more than any other side.
Wigan Athletic v Reading
Nicky Shorey collected his 16th assist in his 82nd Premier League game for Reading. In 86 appearances for his three other Premier League clubs (Aston Villa, Fulham & West Brom), he made just three in total.
Jean Beausejour made his seventh Premier League assist for Wigan; the Latics have won all seven games in which he has collected an assist.
Aston Villa v Arsenal
Lukas Podolski has been subbed off in all 13 Premier League games for the Gunners this term.
Giroud made more successful layoffs than any other player this weekend.
Per Mertesacker was the only player to make more than one last man tackle in the Premier League this weekend.
Swansea City v Liverpool
Swansea’s last six Premier League games have all been goalless at half-time.
The Swans themselves have failed to net a first half goal in their last 10 Premier League matches.
Liverpool embarked on more dribbles than any other player this weekend (30)
The Reds also had the most touches in the opponents box (35).
Gerhard Tremmel made nine saves in Swansea's game, no 'keeper has made more in a Premier League game this season.
Liverpool were the only team not to catch an opponent offside this weekend.
Gerrard created the most chances of any player this weekend (6). Only Baines and Cazorla have created more than Gerrard this season.
Southampton v Newcastle United
Nigel Adkins’ men have scored in 11 of their 13 games this season.
Southampton also hit the woodwork three times in this game.
Saints had the lowest pass completion in the division this weekend (65%)
Newcastle played the highest proportion of passes long this weekend (23%) and have the highest proportion overall this season (17%)
Both of Southampton’s goals came from an error.
Papiss Cisse was caught offside six times v Southampton, the most by any player in any game this season.
Chelsea v Manchester City
In their first game under Rafa Benitez, Chelsea kept their first clean sheet in eight Premier League games.
However, it was also the first time in eight home league games that the Blues failed to find the back of the net.
The Blues only mustered five shots against Man City, their lowest total in a Premier League game this season.
Chelsea registered 42.3% of the possession against the Citizens, their lowest figure in the league this season.
It is also lower than any Premier League possession Chelsea posted at Stamford Bridge under Roberto Di Matteo.
The Blues have now posted three possession figures under 50% in a row in the league for the first time since August 2004.
Tottenham Hotspur v West Ham United
Jermain Defoe has now scored six goals in seven Premier League starts for Spurs against West Ham.
Andy Carroll finally got on the scoresheet for the Hammers in the Premier League, netting with his 20th shot of the season.
Jussi Jaaskelainen has now made 58 saves in the Premier League this season, more than any other ‘keeper.
Spurs did not have the most long throws this weekend (11), that was Stoke (12). Tottenham lead the season overall (115).
An entertaining weekend of Premier League fixtures produced 33 goals. What other statistical landmarks and trends emerged from the nine top flight games?
Arsenal 5 - 2 Tottenham Hotspur
There have been six goals scored inside 10 minutes in the last six north London derbies.
Olivier Giroud has now scored five goals in his last five appearances for Arsenal; this after netting two in his first 13. Arsenal scored five goals from 10 shots on Saturday (excluding blocked shots).
Spurs had the worst pass completion in the opposition half this weekend (67%). They also played the highest proportion of long passes (18%).
Liverpool 3 - 0 Wigan Athletic
Luis Suarez has converted 17.2% of his shots this season in the Premier League. Before this season in the competition, his conversion rate was 9.7%.
Wigan are the only team in the Premier League this season not to earn any points from a game where they have fallen behind at some stage.
Manchester City 5 - 0 Aston Villa
Twenty of the 28 goals that Sergio Aguero has scored in the Premier League have been netted at the Etihad Stadium.
Manchester City (17) have scored more penalties than any other side in the Premier League since 1 August 2010. Mancini's men were the only team to record a 90% pass completion this weekend.
Newcastle United 1 -2 Swansea City
Michu has scored more headed goals than any other player in the Premier League this season (four).
Newcastle have lost four of their last eight Premier League games at St James’ Park – this after losing just two of their previous 22 in the Premier League there.
Newcastle had more shots off target than any other side this weekend (17). Cheik Tioté made the most interceptions in the Premier League this weekend (nine).
Queens Park Rangers 1 -3 Southampton
QPR have kept just one clean sheet in their last 13 Premier League fixtures.
Rickie Lambert netted his first goal in seven hours and 55 minutes of Premier League action, since last scoring versus Aston Villa back in September. Jason Puncheon hit the most shots on target in the top flight this weekend (five).
Southampton scored twice from corners against QPR. Only Manchester United have more overall this season.
Reading 2 -1 Everton
The Toffees have hit the woodwork 12 times in the Premier League this season; more than any other team. They only hit the frame of the goal 12 times in the whole of 2011-12.
Everton have won just three of their last 10 Premier League games (W3 D5 L2).
West Bromwich Albion 2 -1 Chelsea
West Brom are the only Premier League team yet to concede a goal in the opening 30 minutes of games this term.
Peter Odemwingie has already scored more Premier League goals at the Hawthorns this season (four) than in the whole of 2011-12 (three).
Albion scored two headed goals in this match– no team has more than them overall this season (eight) yet Steve Clarke's men put in the fewest crosses of any Premier League team this weekend (seven).
Norwich City 1 -0 Manchester United
John Ruddy made seven saves in this match; two more than he has managed to make in any previous Premier League game this season.
Manchester United have conceded the first goal of the game on eight occasions in their 12 Premier League matches this season.
Michael Carrick made 99 successful passes (112 overall) – the most of any Premier League player this weekend. Ryan Giggs made more unsuccessful passes in the final third than any other player this weekend.
Fulham 1 -3 Sunderland
Adam Johnson assisted multiple goals in a Premier League game for only the second time in his career (he created two goals v Burnley in April 2010). He was the only player to assist twice in a game this weekend, a feat achieved only nine times this season.
Sunderland became the final team to score a headed goal in the Premier League this season. Steven Fletcher made a divisional high eight flick-ons this weekend but none reached a team-mate.
For more football stats and news follow msnsportlee on Twitter
Runners and riders for the Scotland post
After the departure of Craig Levein, it seems Gordan Strachan is the number one candidate to take over as Scotland manager.
Strachan was interviewed for the job before Walter Smith took charge of the national team in 2005, but ended up taking the helm at Celtic.
During his four years at Parkhead the 55-year-old guided the Hoops to three SPL titles, the Scottish Cup and Scottish League Cup as well as progressing to the last 16 of the Champions League for the first time since it was reformatted.
However, the former Manchester United player was not so successful as manager of Middlesbrough and left the club in 2010 by mutual consent after just over a year in charge.
at 10/1 former Scotland boss Smith is being mooted for a return to the position. Smith won seven of his 16 games in charge during a two year spell.
Harry Redknapp’s right-hand-man Joe Jordan is third favourite, while recently sacked managers Alex McLeish and Owen Coyle are joint fourth favourites at 14/1.
Premier League duo Paul Lambert and David Moyes are at 20/1 along with former Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish.
If you fancy a more outside bet then you can get 500/1 for TalkSport DJ Andy Gray.
Scotland Under-21 coach Billy Stark will take temporary charge of the team with his first task to name a squad for next Wednesday's friendly in Luxembourg.
Levein’s departure was not a huge surprise after boasting just three wins in 12 matches with all of the victories by one goal - two against Liechtenstein and one against Lithuania.
Odds from Paddy Power
MSN Sport takes a deeper look at the stats from the weekend's top flight action
Manchester United 2-1 Arsenal
Since the start of last season, Arsenal have made 18 individual errors leading to a goal; more than any other side in the Premier League.
There have been 10 penalties in the Premier League meetings between Arsenal and Manchester United in the Wenger era (eight for United, two for Arsenal); all at Old Trafford and six have been missed.
Wayne Rooney has failed to score seven of the 20 penalties that he has taken in the Premier League (35%).
Arsenal failed to have a shot on target in this match until the 92nd minute (Giroud). The last time that they failed to have a shot on target in a PL game was on 21st September 2003, also against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Arsenal made fewer touches in the opposition box than any other team this weekend – 11.
Fulham 2-2 Everton
Marouane Fellaini has scored five goals and assisted two for Everton in nine Premier League appearances this season.
Fulham have lost more points from winning positions than any other side in the Premier League this season (12).
Everton had the most shots on target in the PL this weekend, nine.
Fulham scored with one third of their shots (excl. blocked)
Norwich City 1-0 Stoke City
Stoke have won just five of their 29 (17%) Premier League games in 2012 so far. In comparison they won 13 of 38 in 2011 (34%).
Norwich were the only team to score from an indirect FK move this weekend.
The Canaries had the lowest long pass accuracy this weekend (34.5%)
Stoke attempted more long passes than any other side (70).
Sunderland 0-1 Aston Villa
Sunderland have attempted only 13 shots on target in their nine Premier League games this season. Every other PL team has attempted at least twice as many as this.
Sunderland played 41 crosses in this game, 10 of which reached a team-mate.
Swansea City 1-1 Chelsea
This was the first time that Chelsea have failed to win a game that they have been leading in in the Premier League this season (W7 D1).
Swansea have conceded the first goal of the game on seven occasions this season in the Premier League – more than any other side.
The Swans had the best pass completion of any side this weekend (88%).
Tottenham Hotspur 0-1 Wigan Athletic
Spurs failed to score at home in the Premier League for the first time since 19th March 2011, this after netting in 29 successive games at White Hart Lane before today.
Andre Villas-Boas has been able to win just six of his last 15 home matches as a Premier League manager.
Gareth Bale put in 19 open play crosses, more than any other player this weekend.
West Ham United 0-0 Manchester City
Mario Balotelli has hit more shots without scoring than any other player in the Premier League this season (26, inc. blocked).
Man City have dropped eight points in their 10 Premier League games so far this season (W6 D4). Last season, they dropped only two points in their opening 10 games (W9 D1).
City hit eight shots off target from inside the penalty area
QPR 1-1 Reading
QPR managed 23 shots (included blocks) in this match, the most they have had in a league game this season. Last season only once did they manage more than this, away at Blackburn (29).
The Royals completed just 66.8% of their passes in this game and they are the only team in the league to average a completion rate below 70% this season (68.48%).
Reading had eight headed shots, the most of any side this weekend.
Nicky Shorey created more chances than any other player this weekend – seven. Only once has a player created more this season (Leighton Baines vs Aston Villa).
Liverpool 1-1 Newcastle United
Luis Suarez's Premier League conversion rate is 14% this season, up from 10% in 2011-12 and 9% in 2010-11.
Joe Allen's pass completion was 86%, the joint-lowest figure he's recorded in a Premier League game for Liverpool.
This was the third time in 10 Premier League games this season that Liverpool haven’t picked up a single booking.
No team played fewer launches than Liverpool this weekend (six).
Liverpool made the most tackles (27) this weekend but the fewest clearances (13)
Suarez made 16 touches in the opposition box.
Amid the red cards, diving and refereeing controversies, some football was played in the Premier League this weekend.
As a result, teams and players achieved some notable (and, in some cases, unwanted) statistical landmarks.
Chelsea v Manchester United
Manchester United have been 2+ goals up in 347 Premier League games and have never lost (W337 D10).
Javier Hernandez has scored seven league goals as a substitute away from home, only Jermain Defoe (9) has more in the division’s history. Since the start of last season, only four players have scored more right-footed goals in the Premier League than the left-footed Robin van Persie (13).
Chelsea had the best shooting accuracy in the top flight this weekend (73%). Juan Mata has scored four goals and assisted five more in his last five Premier League appearances.
Tottenham v Southampton
Eleven of the 13 goals Spurs have conceded have come in the second 45 minutes of matches, a league high percentage of 85%. Gareth Bale has scored more headed goals (four) in the Premier League than goals with his right foot (three).
Southampton have conceded more goals after nine games (26) than any other team in Premier League history.
Everton v Liverpool
Liverpool have kept just one clean sheet in their last 11 away games in the Premier League, conceding 19 goals along the way.
Luis Suarez’s last five goals in the Premier League have all come away from home. Overall he has more away from Anfield with 13 of his 21 league goals coming on the road.
Liverpool conceded the most fouls in the division this weekend (19). The Reds also made two errors leading to goals and now have seven for the season, more than any other team.
Everton scored two goals in the first half of this game, the fourth time they have achieved this feat this season, the only side in the league to do so. Despite ending up on the losing side, Leighton Baines created the most chances in the Premier League this weekend (six).
Newcastle v West Brom
Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse scored in the same Premier League match for the first time since Cisse's debut back in February (a run of 21 games). Hatem Ben Arfa made seven dribbles, more than any other player this weekend. He leads the division this season with 83.
West Brom have conceded a Premier League high 55% of their goals in the final 15 minutes of matches.
Aston Villa v Norwich
Norwich City became the final team in this Premier League season to score a goal from a set piece. The Canaries are without a clean sheet in 38 Premier League away games, the worst ever run without one on the road in Premier League history.
Villa had the worst passing accuracy in the division this weekend (66%). They also played the highest proportion of long passes (19%).
Arsenal v Queens Park Rangers
Jack Wilshere completed all 33 passes he made in the first-half against QPR on his return to the Gunners line-up. Arsenal had 22 shots, more than any other side this weekend.
Since the start of last season, QPR have had 11 players sent off in the Premier League, at least four more than any other side.
No keeper has had to make more saves in a game than the nine that Cesar did v Arsenal.
Reading v Fulham
Jobi McAnuff has now made four Premier League assists, only Hazard and Mata (five) have made more.
Fulham had 66% possession against the Royals, their highest figure since November 2009 against Birmingham.
Stoke City v Sunderland
Sunderland didn’t have a single shot on target against Stoke City. Overall, the Black
Cats have managed just 12 shots on target this season. Every other side has had at least 28.
Wigan Athletic v West Ham United
Wigan have conceded five headed goals in the Premier League this season, the joint most of all sides. The Hammers have conceded a league-low of just one goal from a set piece this season.
Manchester City v Swansea City
Yaya Touré made 108 passes against Swansea, the only player this weekend to break a century. City have now scored in their last 36 home Premier League games, only three teams (Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea) have ever gone on longer runs of this kind.
Arsene Wenger, Harry Redknapp and David Moyes pay tribute to David Beckham as he prepares for his final game.
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Who's been the best English player this season?
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- Steven Gerrard
- Michael Carrick
- Leighton Baines