By David Lynch
Two sides with very different aspirations are set to face each other as Liverpool take on Manchester City on Tuesday at the Etihad Stadium.
Whilst Roberto Mancini's men have designs on the title, it is a rebuilding process after years of neglectful ownership, which has seen the Reds set their aim as simply qualifying for Champions League football once more.
They currently sit just three points behind fourth-placed Chelsea in their quest for European football, a position that they no doubt would have taken if offered it at the start of the season.
However, as they go into 2012 hoping to reach their goals, several questions hang over members of their squad. Questions that a good performance against the league leaders could go a long way to answering.
Point to prove: Manchester City were wrong to let the Welshman go.
There have been numerous victims of the Manchester City project, one in which players are cast aside by a team evolving from one searching for Champions League football to one challenging for the title.
Whilst Craig Bellamy could perhaps be viewed as one of those, the Welsh forward has managed what few else in a similar situation have in continuing to show brilliant form since leaving. City's unwillingness to let the striker leave last season led to a spell in his hometown at Championship club Cardiff but a return to the team he supported as a boy has indicated that he still has all the tools to be a threat at the highest level for a while longer yet.
He will now want to underline that against the team who may perhaps regret dispensing of his services too hastily.
|First goalscorer odds: 12/1
Betting Editor Jim Knight says: Craig Bellamy's tireless style can often endear him to a club's fans but he has been used sparingly by Kenny Dalglish and only has five Premier League starts this season. He was unlucky not to be awarded man of the match against Newcastle, especially after grabbing a brace and with Suarez missing he could now get a consistent run in the team. He is 12/1 to score first for the second game in a row.
Point to prove: He is worth the £35 million Liverpool paid for him despite a slow start.
The Geordie forward became the Reds' record signing last January when they purchased him to replace Chelsea-bound Spaniard Fernando Torres. Who got the best value for money in that exchange is still the punchline of many a joke, given the lack of goals that both strikers have provided since their moves.
However, Carroll will take great confidence from the fact that, if chosen to start, he faces a side who witnessed his best performance yet for Liverpool.
Last April, Dalglish's men hosted the current Premier League leaders and Carroll's two goals coupled with a fantastic performance grabbed all the headlines following a 3-0 win. Another showing of that ilk could truly kickstart Carroll's Anfield career after several false starts.
|First goalscorer odds: 11/1
Betting Editor Jim Knight says: A £35m price tag appears to be weighing heavy on the 22-year-old's shoulders after his move to Merseyside from Newcastle. He has struggled to fulfil the potential that made him the most expensive British players in history and with just two league goals in 17 games (albeit only starting 10 of those), he will be desperate to improve his tally. Stan James make him 11/1 to score first.
Point to prove: He can still be England's best central midfielder.
Liverpool's club captain endured something of an annus horribilis in 2011, making just 15 appearances in total after numerous injury troubles. However, he has looked in fine fettle since making a return as a substitute against Blackburn Rovers and netted in the Reds' last game against Newcastle, again after coming from the bench.
Now the Huyton-born midfielder will want to ensure that 2012 is his best year yet after such a period of frustration and remind all his doubters that he can still give the all-action performances for which he is famed. He will be hoping for a first start of his return against City and an impressive showing in perhaps the toughest game of all to truly stamp his mark on the Premier League.
If his substitute appearances are anything to go by, then the 31-year-old still has a lot left to give this Liverpool side.
|First goalscorer odds: 12/1
Betting Editor Jim Knight says: Gerrard is working his way back into the Liverpool fold after his well-documented injury problems. This game may well have only been his sixth game of the campaign but he made an immediate impact against Newcastle. Not only did Liverpool look more incisive with him pulling the strings but he also got on the score sheet himself. At 12/1 with Stan James to score first he is a great outside bet.
Point to prove: He can find his goalscoring touch again after a difficult period.
The Uruguayan has been both brilliant and frustrating in equal measure since joining Liverpool in January last year. Whilst his exploits in the Reds' attack have seen him taken straight to the hearts of the Kop faithful, his recent ban for an indecent gesture at Fulham's fans and one for the unsavoury exchange with Patrice Evra have tempered his standing in English football.
The arrival of these controversies has also coincided with a poor goalscoring run for the South American striker which has seen him net just once in 11 Premier League games.
The difficulties Suarez has faced have been typified by his position as both creator and finisher and, with Gerrard returning, perhaps the burden will be lifted sufficiently to allow the forward to hit his best form against Mancini's superb defence.
|First goalscorer odds: 8/1
Betting Editor Jim Knight says: With an eight-game ban on the horizon, Suarez could be out to prove a point to fans, especially against another top Premier League club. The Uruguayan has spearheaded Liverpool's attack for the majority of the season and with six league goals he is the leading scorer. He has scored the first goal on four occasions so far and he is 8/1 to break the deadlock at the Etihad.