LONDON – On a day of mourning, Liverpool will be playing one of its biggest matches in years.
The mood at Anfield will be somber Sunday as the country pauses to remember the 96 Liverpool fans who died in the Hillsborough disaster 25 years ago.
The game between Liverpool and Manchester City pits two of the best teams in England and is the biggest in the Premier League so far this season.
"If Liverpool get the result, it will be a great day for the club and the city and also the 96 and their families," former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher said. "It's a big day for them as well and we should never forget that."
Liverpool, looking to win the league title for the first time in 24 years, is chasing its 10th consecutive victory. With both teams still to face more hurdles after Sunday, this game is not decisive but the winner will be the favorite in the title race.
Liverpool won its 18th and last league title in 1990, a year after some the team's fans were crushed in an overcrowded standing-only section at Hillsborough before the FA Cup semifinal against Nottingham Forest.
But after years in the shadow of rival Manchester United, Liverpool fans believe the time has come to write a new chapter of the club's history.
Liverpool has played superb attacking soccer all season. Now it has won nine straight matches and is in first place with only five games remaining.
Liverpool goes into Sunday's game four points ahead of City, but Manchester has two games in hand. Chelsea is second, two points off the pace, and will play at Anfield on April 27.
With so much on the line on a solemn day, emotions will be high. The match is scheduled for seven minutes later than usual as a mark of respect.
"I know there are 96 people in the sky who will always be supporting this team," Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said. "We want to do this for the great support and football family of Liverpool and if we are to achieve anything this year the 96 in the sky will always be in our thoughts, and their families."
Liverpool is unbeaten in the league since a loss at Chelsea last December. City has not lost since a home match against Jose Mourinho's club in February.
"Anfield is never an easy place to go at the best of times and they are top of the table and really playing well, scoring lots of goals and playing great football," City midfielder James Milner said. "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."
Liverpool's great run the past two months can be linked to Luiz Suarez and Steven Gerrard. The Uruguay striker has 29 goals in 28 matches while the England captain seems rejuvenated with 16 goals in 41 matches this season.
"He has been really consistent throughout the course of the season, with his goals," Rodgers said, referring to Gerrard. "But his playmaking ability from behind really gives the team a different dimension."
City manager Manuel Pellegrini insists he won't take a cautious approach.
"If you play to draw you will lose, so we are going to play to win," Pellegrini said. "Of course after the game if we couldn't win the game and we draw, it's a good result, but we are not going to play against Liverpool thinking we must draw. We don't know how to play in that way."