Pressure can reveal many things.
Too little of it sometimes creates complacency while too much of it can cause fissures.
The right amount, though, can create a diamond, and in the cauldron of Anfield on Sunday, hosts Liverpool and Manchester City will be keen to put the shine on their Premier League title chances in this mouth-watering crunch match.
Frontrunners Liverpool (23-5-5) and City (22-4-5), lurking four points back with two matches in hand, are the top two offences in the top flight with 90 and 84 goals, respectively. Manchester City arrive in Merseyside with the superior goal differential - plus-55 to the Reds' plus-50 - on the strength of a defence that has conceded only 29 goals, second to Chelsea (24).
"We know that if we win all our remaining games, we would win the title - and the same applies to Liverpool, so it's definitely one of the biggest games of the season," City midfielder James Milner told the team's official website.
The teams are in impeccable form - Liverpool have won a club-record nine consecutive league matches on the bounce while Manchester City ride a franchise-best 10-match unbeaten road streak (7-3-0) into Anfield. While continuing his one match at a time mantra, it's clear Reds manager Brendan Rodgers is relishing his side's opportunity to burnish their title credentials.
"With the team we put together, the mentality is to be fearless - it doesn't matter who we play," he said. "We have to respect them because they've got world-class players, but it's about ourselves and the confidence we have to play.
"The youngsters will embrace it and enjoy it - there's no pressure on them. Just go and play and whatever pressure, I will take. The most important thing is to focus on the ball and the team, and not yourself. When you do that, it'll take you a long way."
City manager Manuel Pellegrini will finally have the services of Sergio Aguero once more. The Argentine striker has been sidelined since January with a hamstring injury and had been in blistering form prior to his knock with 15 goals in 17 league matches and 26 in 28 overall.
The offence still flourished thanks to Yaya Toure, whose next goal would make him only the fourth midfielder in Premier League history with 19 in a season along with Cristiano Ronaldo, Frank Lampard and Gareth Bale. The Ivorian converted from the spot in City's 4-1 win over Southampton on April 5 while Samir Nasri, Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic also scored goals.
"We know how to play and keep the pressure down, and I think Liverpool have more pressure - I think we are going to win," a confident Jovetic said.
The bulk of Liverpool's scoring has come from three players - Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Steven Gerrard - with the trio accounting for 62 of their 90 league goals. It was the talisman's turn to deliver at Upton Park last Sunday, with Gerrard coolly converting twice from the spot - giving him 10 goals in 11 penalties taken and 13 overall - in their 2-1 win over West Ham United.
Rodgers must choose between Daniel Agger and Mamadou Sakho in central defence to partner with Martin Skrtel since the Dane has recovered from a knee injury and Sakho played a strong 90 minutes at West Ham.
"We've not stolen the position where we are today," the French defender said. "We deserve to be where we are. We are confident about facing their strikers. City score a lot of goals but so do we. It will be two beautiful attacks against two strong defences."
City rallied for a 2-1 victory on Boxing Day, with Liverpool 'keeper Simon Mignolet's poor read on a soft chip by Alvaro Negredo in first-half stoppage time proving decisive. Gerrard did not play in that game due to a hamstring injury.
Liverpool are 6-4-0 in their last 10 versus City at Anfield, but those four draws have come in the last five meetings between the teams.
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