Liverpool-Manchester City Preview
By CHRIS ALTRUDA
(AP) -- It has been a goal-scoring rampage in England unlike anything seen this century, and now Luis Suarez and front-running Liverpool face the ultimate test on Boxing Day when he tries to end Manchester City's overwhelming season-long dominance at Etihad Stadium.
Suarez has been a ball of fire since completing his suspension for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic last season, racking up 19 goals in the 12 league matches he has played to spark the Reds (11-3-3) to the top of the table heading into this holiday fixture. His scoring spree is the most by any player in the Premier League dating back to the 2000-01 season, easily surpassing Thierry Henry's 16 in the 2003-04 campaign.
Additionally, the 10 Suarez has tallied in his last four matches are also the most by any player in England since the start of the 2000-01. Lastly, the Uruguayan's 19 goals since Sept. 12 also outstrip anyone in the world in that time span, with only Zlatan Ibrahimovic (13), Cristiano Ronaldo (12) and Diego Costa (11) scoring at least 11 in a domestic top division.
Suarez bagged at least a brace for the fourth consecutive league match Saturday, netting two goals around turning playmaker for Raheem Sterling's tap-in in the 42nd minute as Liverpool stormed past Cardiff City 3-1. While the goals - and the astonishing rate of goals - have impressed everyone, manager Brendan Rodgers took time to appreciate Suarez notching an assist when he could have easily posted his second hat trick in the four-match span.
"The one for today is unselfish," Rodgers beamed. "First of all, it is for the second goal, he's through on goal and you don't see too many strikers do that. Two brilliant goals, a genuine world-class player. The pivotal point of the team is really exciting and dynamic at the moment."
Suarez has had a limited track record versus Manchester City, netting his lone goal in four matches against them in a 2-2 draw at Anfield on Aug. 26. Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini, though, has been warning his team adamantly there is more to Liverpool than simply an in-form striker finding a rich vein of goals.
"He's having a pretty good season," James Milner told Man City's official website about Suarez. "He's a dangerous player. But Liverpool are a top side having a good season and it's not just about stopping him, because they have plenty of other players who can do damage as well."
City's offence at the Etihad has unloaded plenty of damage, taking the maximum 24 points from their eight matches while pounding teams into submission on a 35-5 aggregate. That continued Saturday on the road with a 4-2 victory over Fulham at Craven Cottage as Jesus Navas snapped a 2-2 deadlock in the 78th minute before Milner salted away the three points five minutes later.
"Against Fulham we showed the character to get those extra two goals at the end and get the win," Milner told City's official website. "These are the sort of games you have to win if you want to win the title."
Man City (11-2-4) will again miss their lethal South American striker - Sergio Aguero - but do have plenty of replacements to try and fill the Argentine's void. While Navas and Milner each came off the bench to pot their goals, Edin Dzeko and Alvaro Negredo have combined for 11 goals, and midfielder Yaya Toure has notched four of his nine goals in his last four matches.
The teams played to 2-2 draws in both fixtures last season, with Aguero helping City scrape out a point with an equaliser in the 78th minute. City also carries a 58-match streak of scoring at least one goal at home, the longest active run in the Premier League.
Updated December 24, 2013