Man City aiming to show top-4 credentials

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Manchester City's expensively assembled squad gets another chance to show it is a serious contender for a top-four finish in the Premier League.

Updated: November 19, 2009 13:35 IST
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London :

Manchester City's expensively assembled squad gets another chance to show it is a serious contender for a top-four finish in the Premier League when it travels to Liverpool on Saturday.

After losing five of its first 12 games, Liverpool is languishing in seventh place and is the most vulnerable of the so-called Big Four to losing its regular Champions League qualifying spot.

Five straight draws mean that City only leads Liverpool by one point and one place, but victory at Anfield could lift City back into the top four.

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez is under pressure and is likely to come up against a player he once hoped was going to help him win the club's first league title since 1990.

Gareth Barry was close to joining Liverpool from Aston Villa in 2008 but the move fell through and the England midfielder moved to City a year later.

Liverpool still finished second to Manchester United last season but key midfielder Xabi Alonso then quit for Real Madrid, having been unsettled by Benitez's attempts to replace him.

Barry was hurt in England's 1-0 friendly loss to Brazil on Saturday but should still play.

"Gareth came back from the international with a little bit of soreness but it should not be a problem for the weekend," City manager Mark Hughes said.

Barry has started all City's 11 Premier League matches and each of its three League Cup games as well as playing five times for England. That's 19 games since Aug. 12.

"It is a long season and he is more than capable of dealing with that but there are going to be times where we will have to protect him," Hughes said. "We are mindful of the fact that Gareth has played so much for us and for England. We want to keep him fresh and well for key games."

And Saturday's game is key for both sides.

With leader Chelsea up against lowly Wolverhampton Wanderers, defeat for Liverpool could leave it 14 points off first place. City is already 10 points behind Chelsea, but has played a game fewer than most of the teams around it.

Second-place Arsenal will be without defender Kieran Gibbs for its trip to Sunderland on Saturday because of a foot injury, but he should be fit to face Chelsea next weekend.

With first-choice Gael Clichy struggling with a back problem, veteran Mikael Silvestre is likely to fill in at leftback.

"It is always difficult to stay on the bench, but that is part of playing at the high level," Silvestre said. "You have to get on with it, and that is what I have been doing."

Manchester United, which is tied with Arsenal on 25 points but trails on goal difference, hosts Everton.

The Toffees have not beaten United in eight league matches, although it lost just one of three meetings last season and won a shootout against the defending FA Cup champions in the semifinals.

United can call upon Park Ji-sung for the first time in two months after the midfielder made his comeback from a knee injury in South Korea's 1-0 friendly loss to Serbia in London.

"I'm ready to play for United now," Park said.

Also Saturday, Birmingham hosts Fulham, Burnley hosts Aston Villa and Hull hosts West Ham.

Fourth-place Tottenham hosts Wigan on Sunday, when Portsmouth is at Stoke and Blackburn is at Bolton.

League Championship leader Newcastle is at Preston on Sunday, while second-place West Bromwich Albion hosts Bristol City and third-place Cardiff hosts Barnsley.

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