Manchester City, Liverpool to square off in ICC as domestic title contenders

NEW YORK – In a rematch that echoes last season’s English Premier League title race, Liverpool will take on Manchester City at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday night (live, FOX Sports 1, 7 p.m. ET) as part of the 2014 International Champions Cup.

It is still a relatively rare sight, soccer at Yankee Stadium. It will become a regular one next year when New York City FC begins play in Major League Soccer, squatting the baseball venue until it has its own home. But on Wednesday, we’ll get another of all that, as City – NYCFC’s mother club, not coincidentally – takes on the club it pipped at the wire for the Premiership last year.

In a season that saw first place change hands 25 times, City eventually captured their second title in three years when Liverpool slipped up late. To be exact, captain Steven Gerrard slipped up, against Chelsea, giving away the game. (And then Liverpool gave up three goals to Crystal Palace in the final 10 minutes, throwing away two points.) Ironically, Gerrard had assembled his side in a huddle after a gutsy and seemingly title-deciding win over City and bellowed, “It doesn’t slip now.”

In 38 regular season games, both clubs scored over 100 goals – 102 to City and 101 to Liverpool – and the Reds will be fixated on showing that they can still compete, even though they’ve sold top scorer and star striker Luis Suarez to Barcelona. Actually, not just compete, but win. Liverpool are arguably a deeper team now, flipping all of that money they received for the controversial Uruguayan for a raft of reinforcements – striker Ricky Lambert, midfielders Adam Lallana and Emre Can, winger Lazar Markovic, center back Dejan Lovren and another striker, Divock Origi, who will join in a year’s time.

City, for once, haven’t done much in the market. They merely replaced the departed Costel Pantilimon, Gareth Barry and Joleon Lescott with Bacary Sagna, Fernando and Willy Caballero. Upgrades, certainly, but not major ones.

While the Citizens would, of course, be happy to maintain the domestic status quo – even though they are overdue for a breakthrough in Europe – the Reds have progress to make. They lacked consistency last year, a tad more of which would surely have landed them their first title since 1990. But it was evident in their spare 1-0 win over Olympiakos in their ICC opener last Saturday that their acute Suarez-lessness has confronted them with a problem they have yet to solve. Both his creating and finishing of chances was sorely missed, as Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling tried to capitalize on their speed to catch the Greeks out on the break, but were severely lacking in their execution.

City, meanwhile, rampaged past AC Milan 5-1, going up by four goals by the 26th minute and seemingly scoring at will. Stevan Jovetic, a pricey acquisition from Fiorentina last summer who didn’t deliver a whole lot, stole the show. And it stands to reason that in their second season under Manuel Pellegrini, the stability and continuity that has been rare at the Etihad will serve them all well.

Few question that these sides will be in the hunt for the Premier League once again next spring. And if you’d like an idea of what that could look like, this game might offer a sneak peek.