Liverpool take on Man City today, sans Balotelli
THE finishing line was in sight but Liverpool stumbled, leaving Manchester City to pip them to the English Premier League (EPL) title by just two points.
Three months and many tears later, Liverpool travel to the Etihad Stadium today in the first major head-to-head encounter of the fledgling EPL season.
The meeting with City will bring memories of what happened last season into sharp focus for Liverpool, but the champions' manager, Manuel Pellegrini, does not think it will have any bearing on today'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.
"Last season is finished. We are not thinking any more about what happened last season. I suppose that also is 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 (S$155 million) transfer enabled them to splurge on eight new players, with former City striker Mario Balotelli also poised to join them.
Balotelli will not feature against his old side as he is due to undergo his medical check-up today, although Liverpool's fans could get their first glimpses of new signings Lazar Markovic and Alberto Moreno.
Adam Lallana, another new recruit, is not yet ready to return as he is still recovering from a knee problem, while left-back Jose Enrique is doubtful due to injury. Daniel Agger, Jon Flanagan and Oussama Assaidi are all definitely out.
City's latest signing, centre-back Eliaquim Mangala, is unlikely to play as he is short of fitness following his £32 million switch from Porto.
Striker Alvaro Negredo remains sidelined by a foot injury, but Sergio Aguero could start after coming off the bench to score in injury time in their opening win at Newcastle.
Former Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard may also make his debut for the club.
Today's game is an early opportunity for last season's two outstanding teams to gauge each other, but Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers does not believe it will be a cautious encounter.
Both teams broke the 100-goal barrier in 2013-14 - City scoring 102 goals to Liverpool's 101 - and Rodgers thinks they will both be eager to assert themselves.
Asked if he expected the game against City to be cagey, Rodgers replied: "I don't think so.
"If you look at both sets of players, there's lots of invention and creativity in the team. I think both will be creative and want to score goals.
"We know we need to be compact and solid when we haven't got the ball, and we need to be aggressive and press well.
"We know we have the freedom, movement and pace that can hurt teams. We understand it's early on, but it'll be a good game for sure."