Liverpool already have the perfect playmaker to expose Man City

Liverpool could rely on tactics that have worked in the past to defeat Pep Guardiola. Liverpool versus Manchester City has become the most prominent fixture on the English calendar in recent years not because of history, rivalry or hate, but performance.

Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola moved to England at roughly the same time, with the latter’s team delivering peak level on the pitch at a faster rate than the former despite the very apparent crossover between 2017 and 2020.

That three-year period saw Liverpool and City accumulate at least 58 points more than any other team from England’s top-flight, and the pair are responsible for each of the four highest points totals in Premier League history.

Klopp and Guardiola have clashed 10 times in the Premier League and Champions League while in charge of their current clubs; the German has won five, the Spaniard has won three and the remaining two have ended as draws.

They are set to meet again on Sunday at the Etihad in what feels like a very different type of match compared to those from before, with both sides appearing relatively vulnerable in comparison to their former selves.

Liverpool are without the world’s best centre-back in Virgil van Dijk and even with him in the starting eleven, the Reds suffered their heaviest defeat since the Premier League was established in 1992 just a month ago at Villa Park.

City have played six matches, yet have found the net only nine times; the fewest number of goals that Guardiola’s men had previously scored after the same amount of games was 18 in his first season, which is double their current amount.

The 2020/21 campaign remains young – and it’s worth noting that Liverpool are still positioned at the top of the table – yet neither team looks quite as in control of everything as they did before, which makes for a curious dynamic ahead of this weekend’s contest.

Now that Van Dijk, Thiago Alcantara and Fabinho are absent, will Klopp recognise that his team are somewhat less capable on the defensive side of the game before essentially conceding possession to City and punishing their mistakes when they materialise?

The Reds have benefited in the past by luring Guardiola’s players into traps and enforcing errors, and considering City will be without key figures such as Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Fernandinho and – possibly – Gabriel Jesus compared to previous meetings, it could be argued they the Manchester side will be more vulnerable to such happenings.

The pressing tactic has always been favoured by Klopp, particularly in high-profile contests, with the German renowned for famously stating: “No playmaker in the world can be as good as a good counter-pressing situation.”

As the Reds have evolved, Liverpool have deviated from that relentless pressing approach largely because most opponents are unwilling to allow those situations to emerge; many teams simply hit long rather than trying to keep the ball on the floor and build from the back against Klopp’s men, but City will not revert to such a plan.

It remains to be seen exactly how both managers will interpret the challenge ahead of them but given City’s stuttering attack, their dedication to building from the back and Liverpool’s imperfect defence, it would make plenty of sense for Klopp to relinquish possession and remain compact to take advantage of any mistakes that City make as they try to find openings.


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