Manchester City insist they are ready to cope with the hostility which the Anfield crowd will direct at them today as Liverpool attempt to take a giant step towards securing their first title since 1990.
Liverpool's famous ground will be at fever pitch, with their manager, Brendan Rodgers, calling for the passion of the home supporters to be unleashed on the visitors.
A further layer of emotion will be added by the proximity to next week's 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. A minute's silence will be held for the dead today as the Kop hold up a mosaic spelling out "96 – 25 years", while there will be a commemorative patch with the words: "Never Forgotten" in the centre circle.
City will be desperately hoping that Vincent Kompany will be there to lead them out. The Belgian limped out of training yesterday after injuring his leg in a collision with Micah Richards. His fitness will be assessed this morning.
Today's match is pivotal, with both teams in a position whereby victory in all their remaining games will clinch the title. However, City, who will fall seven points behind Liverpool – with two games in hand – should they lose, believe they have the mental strength and experience to deal with the occasion.
Their Brazil midfielder Fernandinho yesterday drew a parallel with the Copa Libertadores, the South American equivalent of the Champions' League. In 2005, the year Steven Gerrard lifted the European Cup in Istanbul, Fernandinho was part of an Atletico Paranaense side that made the final, and he said he will draw on that experience.
"When you play in the Copa Libertadores, if you go to Paraguay, Argentina and Ecuador, you get attacked from all sides with sticks, stones and posts as you approach the stadium," he said. "When I was in Brazil, we went to play against Vasco da Gama in Rio de Janeiro. Access to the stadium was via a very tight road, just enough for a vehicle to go in, and we got a massive stone thrown at our bus.
"We were not allowed to warm up on the pitch, we had to warm up in a cement area that looked like a cinema. They did all sorts of tricks but we still won what was a very important game. These things happen and, when they do, they create more motivation in our group. What is important is that we are focused enough not to be affected by outside events,'' he said while promoting EA Sports 2014 World Cup demo.
''Our team is old enough, prepared enough and experienced enough to know how to deal with this situation. If you are properly prepared, you can block everything out."
City's manager, Manuel Pellegrini, rejected the suggestion that, since Mourinho has conceded the title and Rodgers was never expected to take Liverpool this far, he is the man under pressure.
"I don't think it's true," he said. "Maybe they are covering themselves if they don't win the title. This profession is about pressure. I don't know what [Liverpool's] players think but I am sure that if I said to my players that we don't have any pressure to win because this is only my first season in England, well, I don't think that would work."
Pellegrini does not discount Chelsea winning the title but, perhaps because he dislikes Mourinho and perhaps because he has always believed in attacking football, he argued that it would be bad for the game if Chelsea, who have scored 19 fewer goals than City and 25 fewer than Liverpool, became champions.
"It would be very disappointing for football, for the fans and for everyone," he said.Reuse content