Gary Neville says Man City and Liverpool will look to lay down a marker when they meet on Monday Night Football.
Just two weeks into the new season, the reigning Premier League champions host last year’s runners-up at the Etihad live on Sky Sports and Neville says it’s the perfect opportunity for both sides to strike a psychological blow over the other.
Despite both City and Liverpool getting off to winning starts on the first Super Sunday of the season, Neville reckons neither side is yet up to full speed as many players have had their pre-season preparations disrupted by the World Cup.
However, he believes the head-to-head – which could prove crucial later in the campaign – should be a fascinating encounter.
“It’s brilliant for us, but probably comes a little bit too early for the two teams,” he told skysports.com.
“Post-World Cups there’s always a stuttering start and we saw in the first Premier League weekend there was no one really hitting the ground running. The real quality football we know these teams can play isn’t there yet because some of the players have only got a week’s training in them since they’ve come back.
“In a perfect world, if you were Manuel Pellegrini or Brendan Rodgers, you’d say ‘I’d rather have this game in a couple of weeks’ time’. But it’s the same for both teams and it will be interesting.
“They’ll want to put a marker down on each other. These head-to-heads were important games last year and I’m looking forward to it.”
Whilst Neville is tipping Chelsea to win the Premier League title this term, the Sky Sports expert says City demonstrated their power and skill in their 2-0 win at Newcastle last weekend – and believes Pellegrini’s men will only get better as the season progresses.
“It’s difficult playing at Newcastle at any point of the season but it’s quite clear Man City are only going to improve in the next few weeks, with players coming back,” he said.
“When you look at City, they just looked powerful and strong. They’ve got a strong squad and they’ve got players in there who are real forces – such as Yaya Toure and Vincent Kompany – but they’re adding to it as well, with real ‘good-mentality’ players.
“Last time they won the league a few of them got carried away. If they can continue to do what they did at the weekend, which was grind out part of the game but also deliver some of the quality we saw at times – the David Silva goal was fantastic – they’ll take some stopping.”
For Liverpool this season – and particularly in their clashes with their fellow title-chasers – Neville says covering for the absence of Luis Suarez is key.
The Reds' top scorer last term swapped Anfield for Barcelona in the summer and Neville believes it is down to the whole Liverpool side, rather than any individual in particular, to step up and deliver now the Uruguayan is gone.
“Liverpool can’t replace Luis Suarez like-for-like, they’re going to have to do it collectively through the team,” he said.
“There’s no individual they’ve signed that’s going to do what Luis Suarez did – unless somebody completely surprises us. They’re all going to have to contribute in different ways and become a better team.
“They were a good team last year and in the game against Southampton we saw Rodgers play a lot of the players he relied on last year and introduce one or two at a time.
“Raheem Sterling, Adam Lallana and all the other signings they’ve made are going to have to really chip in.”