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HindustanTimes Wed,23 Apr 2014

Football

EPL set for Boxing Day bonanza
Agencies
London, December 26, 2013
First Published: 00:12 IST(26/12/2013)
Last Updated: 00:14 IST(26/12/2013)

Boasting the Premier League's most dangerous attacking units, Manchester City and Liverpool should provide a glut of goals when the title challengers play during Thursday's packed Boxing Day programme.

Liverpool is at the top at Christmas for the first time since 2008 after scoring 42 goals.

Only Manchester City has been more lethal in front of goal, with the team — a point behind Liverpool and Arsenal in third —scoring 51 goals in 17 games.

Uruguayan striker Suarez has scored 19 league goals this term despite having been suspended until the end of September for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic last season.

His run of form has helped Liverpool go top with a run of four straight wins, in which they have scored 17 goals, while City, who could move above the Reds with a win, have scored 16 in a similar run of four victories.

However, while Suarez will be the centre of attention, City player James Milner feels it would be wrong to underestimate the rest of Brendan Rodgers's players.

"(Suarez) is having a pretty good season," said the England midfielder. "He's a dangerous player. We have come up against dangerous players so far this season, but he will definitely be right up there, so we will need to keep him quiet. "But Liverpool are a top side having a good season."

Depleted squads
The short trip to Manchester will be a test of the depth of Liverpool's resources, ,as well as its title credentials, ,with only 17 players fit to travel.

City's main striker Sergio Aguero is still absent with a calf injury, while Stevan Jovetic, Pablo Zabaleta and Micah Richards are also missing for manager Manuel Pellegrini.

Liverpool defender Jon Flanagan is doubtful for the game with a tight hamstring and with Steven Gerrard, Daniel Sturridge and Jose Enrique still out.

"Our squad is very thin at the moment and we're down to 17 players, which is unfortunate coming into a busy period," said Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers.

While Liverpool have won all but one of their home matches this season, City have a perfect record of eight wins from their eight games on home turf.

Rodgers maintains that his side are going to the Etihad Stadium to attack, though, and says that his players are in buoyant mood after their fine recent form.

"We know it's a tough place to go," he added. "They have confidence at home."

Blues bounce back
Chelsea was 11 points behind the leaders at this time, but is now within two points of Liverpool going into Thursday's match against Swansea.

"We don't go to Christmas as leaders, but we go with evolution because last season the championship was already lost by this point," Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said. Chelsea and Arsenal drew 0-0 on Monday to leave the Gunners two points ahead in second.

Arsenal has another derby on Thursday against West Ham.

Merry Martinez
With only one loss in 17 league matches, Roberto Martinez has spent his first season at Everton trying to downplay expectations. The Merseyside club is only out of the top four due to Chelsea's superior goal difference.

"I feel we haven't reached our full potential and that excites me," Martinez said ahead of Thursday's match against last-place Sunderland.

Last year it was Martinez in charge of a struggling team, with Wigan going on to be relegated before he was handed the Everton job.


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