Manchester City Vs Liverpool, Mon 23 Aug 2010

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England midfielder James Milner is set to make his debut for Manchester City against Liverpool at Eastlands.

Milner sat out the 1-0 victory against Timisoara in the Europa League play-off first leg match after arriving from Aston Villa.

Manager Roberto Mancini will monitor the fitness of striker Mario Balotelli, who picked up a knock after scoring the winner on his debut.

Summer signings Aleksander Kolarov (ankle) and Jerome Boateng (knee) are again ruled out through injury.

Mancini expects Liverpool to pose a big threat to their hopes of a Champions League place.

Even though the campaign is only in its infancy the meeting of the two clubs at Eastlands could have huge significance come May.

While City have rebuilt their squad at vast expense, Liverpool have been more subdued, making a splash with the free-agent signing of England midfielder Joe Cole while also bringing in Christian Poulsen, Milan Jovanovic, Jonjo Shelvey, Danny Wilson and Brad Jones.

However more significantly for Mancini, new manager Roy Hodgson has kept hold of his best players.

Steven Gerrard has said he is happy to carry on and help Liverpool try and improve on a disappointing seventh place in the Barclays Premier League last season.

Spain striker Fernando Torres, with a World Cup winner's medal in his pocket, is also up for the challenge.

Torres is getting back to full fitness after injuring his thigh in the World Cup final and was on the bench in the draw against Arsenal.

Despite needing two knee operations during the season he still managed to finish with 22 goals in 32 games in all competitions for his club.

Argentina enforcer Javier Mascherano remains on board even though he has been linked to a move away from Anfield.

Mancini knows his side face a stiff test in their first home game in from of an expectant public.

He said: "Liverpool are a strong team. They did not sell any players from last season.

"We want to win but I have a lot of respect for them and a lot of respect for Roy Hodgson. It should be a good match."

Liverpool midfielder Joe Cole begins a three-match domestic ban after his sending off against Arsenal but Mascherano is making good progress in his recovery from a calf injury.

Daniel Agger is less likely to feature after suffering concussion in the Arsenal game but the Dane has not yet been ruled out.

Gerrard will return after being rested for the Europa League tie against Trabzonspor and Torres is pushing for his first start of the season.

Dirk Kuyt, Glen Johnson, David Ngog and Martin Skrtel could also be back while Poulsen is in contention for a Premier League debut.

Liverpool manager Hodgson claims he is in no position to feel envious of City.

"I am never jealous," said Hodgson, who boasts a wealth of experience from a coaching career that has taken him around Europe.

"I am in a position where I want to be and I am working for a club I have always wanted to work for.

"I think it is for other people to be jealous of me. It would be very sad if someone who has been as fortunate as I have in my career starts getting jealous of other people.

"I knew what I was coming to when I came to Liverpool and I have been very pleasantly surprised by everything, especially the reception I got from the players and fans and the way the players have responded to the work we have tried to do."

The game has been billed as a clash of the old stagers versus the new pretenders but Hodgson sees no reason why Liverpool should not aspire to the same heights as Mancini's City this season.

The former Inter Milan and Fulham boss said: "We both have high ambitions. I'll be disappointed if we have a bad season, he will be (if they do) too.

"Expectations are high whatever you do - if you spend no money there are high expectations, but when you spend a lot of money the expectations are a little bit greater.

"He [Mancini] is used to that - like myself he has worked at Inter. When you work there you are used to high expectations."

Although uncertainty surrounds Liverpool's future ownership, spirits on the field are high after an encouraging season-opening draw against Arsenal last week.

Hodgson believes it is as good a time as any to be playing City.

He said: "If you look at their squad on paper and the quality of players they have bought, everybody sees them as being a strong squad. We are going to have to be at our best to get a result."

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

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