Manchester City and Liverpool will renew their rivalry beneath the Etihad Stadium floodlights on Monday in the first major head-to-head encounter of the fledgling Premier League season.
When the teams last met, at Anfield in April, a late Philippe Coutinho goal gave Liverpool a 3-2 victory that left them on course for a first league title since 1990.
But with the finishing line in sight, Brendan Rodgers’ side collapsed, allowing City to creep up on the rails and pip them to the title by two points.
Liverpool’s late-season slump was particularly traumatic for captain Steven Gerrard, whose slip against Chelsea allowed Demba Ba to score a goal that allowed City back into the title race.
After then crashing out of the World Cup in the group phase with England, the 34-year-old said he had been through “probably the worst three months of my life”.
The meeting with City will bring memories of what happened last season into sharp focus for Gerrard and his team-mates, but the champions’ manager, Manuel Pellegrini, does not think it will have any bearing on Monday’s game.
“I cannot know what happened inside Liverpool or if they will be affected by last season or not,” said the Chilean, whose side won 2-0 at Newcastle United in the first game of their title defence.
“My way of thinking is that last season is finished, for our team it is finished. I suppose that also for Liverpool it is finished.”
Whereas City have enjoyed a largely settled off season, Liverpool have witnessed significant upheaval.
Luis Suarez’s departure for Barcelona in a £75 million ($124 million, 94 million euros) transfer helped fund a splurge of investment that has seen eight new players move to the club, with former City striker Mario Balotelli also poised to join them.
Balotelli will not feature against his old side as his transfer was not finalised before the weekend, but Liverpool’s fans could get their first glimpses of new signings Lazar Markovic and Alberto Moreno.