Manchester City travel to the south coast to take on Mauricio Pochettino’s Southampton in the evening kick-off on Saturday hoping they can claw back some of the nine-point deficit between themselves and title rivals Manchester United.
As Steven Gerrard rifled home a classic screamer past Joe Hart last weekend at the Etihad Stadium, Sir Alex Ferguson leaped out of his seat at home and cheered, swinging a Liverpool scarf around his head before belting out the ‘Steve Gerrard, Gerrard!’ song.
Okay, some of that is probably a lie, but no doubt the United manager will have been pleased to see the ‘noisy neighbours’ suffer another blow to their hopes of retaining the Premier League title, though Sergio Aguero’s angled equaliser did earn Roberto Mancini’s side a point.
However, it was not just the two points lost that will have alarmed the Italian gaffer, but the way in which Liverpool outplayed the champions on their own patch for large parts of the game.
While the Reds put in arguably their best performance of the season, many pointed to the absence of two key players in the City line-up: Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure.
Captain Kompany (there’s a kids TV show in that name) will likely remain on the sidelines this Saturday with a calf strain, but Toure returns from an unsuccessful Africa Cup of Nations with the Ivory Coast, along with his brother Kolo, to try to drag City back into what is looking increasingly like a one-horse title race.
The former Barcelona midfielder was a huge inspiration for the Sky Blues in their title-winning campaign last year, averaging a goal almost every four games.
He has a similar ratio this season, scoring six in 27 appearances, but bagging two from three games in South Africa will have boosted his confidence.
Mancini often turned to Toure to bomb forward whenever City were in a desperate situation last season, and desperate is certainly the appropriate word for their current campaign.
The midfield duo of Gareth Barry and Javi Garcia were largely dominated against Brendan Rodgers’ team last weekend, but against Southampton, Toure can be the difference and City can be backed at 57/100 to emerge victorious with the Ivorian back in the side.
If you’re an ambitious gambler (and we all like to think we are), then you might just fancy the Saints to pull off the upset they came so close to achieving on the opening Sunday of the season.
Nigel Adkins’ men, as they were then, took a 2-1 lead at the Etihad thanks to goals from Rickie Lambert and Steven Davis, but Edin Dzeko and Samir Nasri broke their hearts with a double salvo late on.
The bizarre sacking of Adkins was not the way many imagined Southampton would start 2013 and little was known of his replacement, Pochettino, but the Argentine manager has taken to the Premier League better than some had anticipated.
Respectable draws against Everton and Wigan Athletic have come either side of a widely applauded 2-1 defeat at Old Trafford with a performance labelled by Ferguson as the best by a visiting side this season (I think Tottenham might have something to say about that).
If you think Pochettino can pick up his first win in England against an increasingly agitated Mancini, then 11/2 is the price on offer with bwin.
Despite the return of the brothers Toure, there is a compelling argument to be made for a stalemate at St Mary’s, which is available at tempting odds of 3/1.
Mancini’s men have nearly drawn as many games on the road in the Premier League as they have won, with five ties compared to six victories.
Similarly, the Saints have drawn more games at home than they have won or lost, with five stalemates compared to three wins and four losses.
Southampton may be 16th, just three points off the drop zone, but they sit a more impressive eighth in the form table, drawing four of their last six outings.
All of that does make a draw in this one seem very tempting and if it were to occur, then any faint hope that City still carry of retaining the Premier League title will surely be gone, which is why the return of Toure is so crucial.
He dug them out of the mire when they needed it most last season and I think he could be the difference between a draw and a one-goal win in this one, which is why my top bet is on a marginal 2-1 victory for the away side at 7/1.
If you agree, then you can place the free £20 bet you receive for signing up to a bwin account on that very outcome. You will find a welcome £160 sitting in your account balance if the champions can produce the goods.
Follow David on Twitter @whichdave