The Mighty Reds sit eight points behind Manchester United and need to win against Manchester City to remain in touching distance of last year's champions. The Anfield outfit relinquished their league leading status as Manchester United began their amazing fourteen game clean-sheet run, which was ended by Blackburn after playing 1,334 without conceding a goal. Benitez will be eager to stay close to the Red Devils but will have a tricky tie in the shape of the unpredictable City.
The return to form of Fernando Torres comes as a relief to the Spanish gaffer who already off-loaded Robbie Keane in the January transfer window after the Irishman failed to impress as Torres’ strike partner.
With three goals from two games, El Nino's return to form might give the Liverpool the push they need to truly re-enter the title race. However, Benitez has several key injury concerns on his hands for this crucial encounter, especially with the tantalizing date with Real Madrid in the Champions League looming on the horizon.
Mark Hughes has been managing more off-the-field than on it in the last few weeks as he has had to deal with the Kaka debacle and two first-team player arrests, all while trying to shape and steer a side towards a successful run of results.
The former Blackburn manager has found nothing easy since arriving at Manchester City in the summer, yet simply finding himself still with a job after the Citizens' inconsistent run of form under immense media and boardroom pressure is impressive at this point of the campaign.
The Blues still find themselves in the hunt for silverware via the UEFA Cup, although they stammered slightly in midweek when they twice gave up the lead to allow FC Copenhagen to earn a draw in the first leg of the round of 32 clash.
The disappointing meltdown, coupled with their dismal performance against Portsmouth last weekend, will have Hughes desperate for a good result, but points may be hard to come by at Anfield this weekend. If the Citizens are to take anything away from it, they will have to be at their best.
Liverpool 1-1 Everton (EA)
Wigan 1-1 Liverpool (EPL)
Liverpool 2-0 Chelsea (EPL)
Everton 1-0 Liverpool (FA)
Portsmouth 2-3 Liverpool (EPL)
Man City 1-0 Wigan (EPL)
Man City 2-1 Newcastle (EPL)
Stoke 1-0 Man City (EPL)
Man City 1-0 Middlesbrough (EPL)
Portsmouth 2-0 Man City (EPL)
Benitez will not be risking the hamstrung Steven Gerrard for this clash ahead of the Reds Champions League encounter with Madrid this Wednesday. But midfielder Lucas returns after serving his ban following his dismissal against Everton.
Xabi Alonso, on the other hand, will miss out as he serves his own one-match suspension.
Dirk Kuyt and Fernando Torres should find themselves in the starting line-up after coming on as subs against Portsmouth in the last round of the Premier League.
Shaun Wright-Phillips will serve the second of his three-match suspension, while Richard Dunne makes his first appearance back since his four-match ban for kicking out at Amr Zaki.
Micah Richards recovered to play against Copenhagen midweek after missing last weekend’s tussle with Portsmouth, and should be fit to start against Liverpool.
Both Nedum Onuoha and Vincent Kompany have impressed while deputising, yet with Dunne returning from suspension one will have to make way for the captain’s comeback.
Nigel De Jong should return to the starting line-up after not making the UEFA Cup squad list, while Gelson Fernandes remains out with a hamstring injury.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Fernando Torres has three goals in his last two games and has found his form at the right time. When it seemed injuries were going to get the better of the Spaniard this season, he has bounced back to show his true form and will lead the line as the Reds look to challenge for the Premier League title.
Feisty Welshman Craig Bellamy returns to Anfield, and to yet another one of his old clubs, as the striker looks to continue his impressive scoring run. He may not be the target man Hughes had in mind for the January window, yet his pace, finishing, and experience have earned City valuable points since his arrival.