Clarke expects Reds to trouble City
Liverpool assistant coach Steve Clarke admits the options tomorrow's visitors Manchester City have at their disposal presents a significant challenge as the Reds look to extend their unbeaten run. The Premier League leaders have dropped just two points in 12 matches this season and are five clear of neighbours Manchester United ahead of this weekend's fixtures.
Even though they suffered a disappointing Champions League defeat to Napoli in midweek, such is the depth of quality in City's squad manager Roberto Mancini can make wholesale changes to his line-up without drastically weakening the team. Nevertheless, Clarke believes Liverpool, who have not lost in nine matches in all competitions, can match their big-spending visitors if they put in a performance like the one which brought victory at Chelsea last weekend.
"They're top of the league and they're top of the league on merit," he said. "They've only dropped two points but we look forward to the challenge. I don't think they have a main threat - they have a number of top-quality players, all capable of causing a problem.
"It's up to us as a team and as individual players to handle that threat and if we do that we'll be okay. We try to prepare our players and the way we want them to play. We feel if we can perform to our maximum, and the players can all perform to their maximum on the day, we can give any team in the Premier League a game."
The result at Stamford Bridge was just the confidence boost the players needed ahead of facing City, who were defeated 3-0 at Anfield last season. Liverpool's home form has been disappointing with only two wins from six matches and with their last two outings on Merseyside resulting in draws against newcomers Norwich and Swansea.
But Clarke echoed the comments of manager Kenny Dalglish when he said they could not look at the Chelsea result as being any more significant than any other game. "I'm not so sure it's going to kick-start anything," he told liverpoolfc.tv.
"You just have to take every game as it comes. We've dropped points at home we feel disappointed to have dropped them but we can't do anything about that now. We have to look at the next game, we have to attack it with relish and try to get the win we need."
Captain Steven Gerrard is still out with an ankle infection which has sidelined him for a month but the only other absentee in Dalglish's squad is teenage left-back Jack Robinson. Last week the Scot dropped winger Stewart Downing to the bench after 11 successive Premier League starts and also among the substitutes at Chelsea were Jamie Carragher, returning from injury, Andy Carroll and Jordan Henderson. Dalglish is likely to keep changes to a minimum but may opt to bring a couple of those players back tomorrow.
But whether or not English international winger Downing find his way into the starting XI, he said the squad confidence is high after their win last weekend, but their arrogance is not. "I think we should look forward to it and say 'Why can't we be the first team to beat them?'" he said.
"It's a great incentive for us. Obviously they are coming off a defeat in Napoli so they will be right up for it. They are a top team with many, many great players, not just in the 11 but on the bench. We are going to have to be right up for it and start well. If we don't they will punish you, which they have shown against the top teams this season."
Downing added on liverpoolfc.tv: "It has the makings of a cracking game. We are at home at Anfield so I'm confident we can get a result. ut we have belief in our own ability and confidence is flying, especially the way we won the game (against Chelsea) because it was difficult circumstances in the second half and we nicked it right at the end.
"Training has been really intense and we are really looking forward to the game. Inside the club we have the belief that we have a really good team but we have quietly gone about our business and got some good results. We made a big statement on Sunday by beating Chelsea on their home turf and they don't lose there very often. We are going about our work quietly and that's the best way to do it."