Liverpool evoke past glories in face of Manchester City’s riches
The contrast is stark and simple. In the blue corner, Manchester City with their blank cheques, new stadium and happily inflated ambitions. In the red, Liverpool with none of the above but sustained, it would seem, by an abiding sense of who they are.
“I will say one thing: you can buy stars but you cannot buy history,” asserts Javier Mascherano, seemingly auditioning for a Merseyside version of Mel Gibson's Braveheart.
And he repeats himself, as if saying is believing. “At Liverpool we play with the history of the club. We don't have the money that they have, but we are proud to play for Liverpool. You can buy stars but you cannot buy history.”
City, of course, can claim as rich and varied a history as any, but tomorrow afternoon at Eastlands they entertain Liverpool as they struggle for the fourth position that will do so much to determine the immediate future of these two intensifies.
“It is clear that if we get into the top four, then City, Tottenham and Villa will have more problems,” said Rafa Benitez.
Of the quartet contesting fourth, Villa and Liverpool have the more straight-forward looking run-ins. Martin O'Neill's side face two of the title and fellow Champions League-chasing contenders, although they have to balance that with involvement in two cup competitions.
Liverpool have three, including tomorrow's game; City have six of their remaining 13 fixtures against the top seven, with Chelsea and Tottenham (who have four to meet) lying in wait on each of the next two weekends.
“After those three games we have another 10,” said Roberto Mancini. “If we lost the three games it could be difficult to finish fourth.”
His counter-part tomorrow appreciates the particular pressure victory tomorrow would apply to the loser. “If we succeed, they will have problems,” said Benitez of the prospect of a Liverpool win.
“If it's the opposite, then it will be different. It's very important if we win, they will need to win more games and it will be more difficult for them. They will be under more pressure if we win, that's for sure.”
Meanwhile, Mancini insists he can deal with Craig Bellamy's feisty personality — as he has worked with the best in the game.
While Mancini denied a report of a serious rift with the player he admitted he had an argument with the Wales striker.
Bellamy could in fact come into contention against Liverpool after being been sidelined with a knee injury and former Inter Milan coach Mancini said: “I have worked with players who won the Champions League and the World Cup.
“They had the right attitude and that is very important. So I have no problem with Craig.”