Sturridge & Aguero: Return of the forgotten men
Sturridge stakes his claim for a starting spot while Aguero will want to break Anfield duck
Pep Guardiola's reaction to Daniel Sturridge's goal was hard to fathom.
Hiding beneath his cap, the Manchester City manager had a stab at invisibility in the stands.
But there was nothing inconspicuous about Sturridge. His finish against Stoke was typically accomplished.
Just when City thought it was safe to return to Anfield, another striker popped up on the horizon line.
Sturridge is back and the chip on the shoulder remains firmly in place.
The injury-prone striker will be hoping his assist and goal in the last two games against Everton and Stoke respectively can convince Juergen Klopp to hand him a starting spot when the two title rivals meet at Anfield tomorrow morning (Singapore time).
Along with Sergio Aguero, the pair are in rare company: Two forwards with title-challenging experience, two strikers with a point to prove.
One is the nearly man, the other a trophy hoarder, both are united by a similar narrative.
They are two forgotten men, shoved back into the limelight during the New Year celebrations and expected to bring the fireworks.
TWIST IN THE TALE
In both instances, the storylines appear straightforward, but there is a twist in both tales.
Aguero, now 28, missed four games after that dreadful challenge on Chelsea's David Luiz on Dec 4.
City's top scorer in the last five seasons will swagger into the line-up, no doubt, but his teammates have stumbled upon a smidgeon of form in his absence.
Three consecutive victories and seven goals scored complicate matters a little, especially as the Argentinian has good reason to return with a vengeance.
He has never scored at Anfield, a venue that appears littered with battered voodoo dolls in City jerseys.
Despite investing the kind of money that buys islands with lots of palm trees, club owner Sheikh Mansour has so far sent only wooden tops to Anfield.
He's enjoyed victories at Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham, savouring bragging rights within the billionaires club, but never at Liverpool.
If City insist on playing out from the back, it will give Liverpool a chance.Former Liverpool midfielder Jan Molby
City haven't defeated the Scousers on Merseyside since 2003, an unlikely statistic that the crowd might mention once or twice as the visitors get jittery.
But Aguero has further incentive to prove that absence makes the heart grow fonder.
A day after the game, a wide-eyed wunderkind will turn up at the Etihad with a mandate to make himself the next City superstar.
Back in Brazil, they're referencing Gabriel Jesus with all those samba superlatives once associated with Neymar, Ronaldinho and Ronaldo.
He scored for both club Palmeiras and country, won the league and picked up the nation's best player gong. He's still only 19.
If Liverpool go in front, I think they will run away with it.Former Arsenal star paul Merson
Guardiola has a fine track record with elevating teenagers at the earliest opportunity. The Spaniard also has a Chelsea juggernaut to catch. He hasn't bought Jesus for the bench.
Timing is everything. Aguero could certainly use a goal at Anfield.
But then, so could Sturridge.
Liverpool's most complete striker when fully fit, will surely struggle to stifle the giggling when he wishes Sadio Mane well as the Senegalese striker heads off for the African Nations Cup.
Sturridge has needed Mane finding his feet like he's needed another injury.
So his first goal of the EPL season against Stoke cannot be underestimated.
As an idealist, the goal reminded a sceptical manager that Sturridge once did this title-chasing stuff with Luis Suarez.
As a 28-year-old realist, the finish put him in the shop window, perhaps for an EPL rival or even a mad Chinese club with more billions than brain cells.
Either way, a goal against City will go a long way in defining his campaign.
Sturridge, like Aguero, needs to be front and centre when the moment arrives.
A freezing night at Anfield may be defined by the men who came in from the cold.