Liverpool and Manchester City are developing a rivalry. Two immensely attacking teams with similar, tactically devout managers are always set up to entertain. Both, though, have experienced blips throughout this season and have underachieved to this point in certain aspects.
Liverpool looked guaranteed for the top four at Christmas, now even that seems a stretch. Manchester City should have competed for the title this year, but they have been eliminated from the Champions League in the last 16 and sit way behind the leaders Chelsea.
This weekend’s match means more to Jurgen Klopp and his side than it does to Manchester City and Pep Guardiola. City are still in the FA Cup and look relatively comfortable in the top four, despite only being one point ahead of Liverpool at the moment. Liverpool need a result here to keep Manchester United and Arsenal at arm’s reach.
Klopp has fared well in big matches to date, but there are a few changes he must consider for this clash…
With the in-form duo of Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling holding their positions high up the pitch, Manchester City will be able to expose the clear weaknesses in Liverpool’s wide defensive positions. Should Klopp’s full-backs continue with their marauding up field, they will be wildly open to the pace, skill and increasing end product of Sane and Sterling.
Klopp will not want to relinquish a fundamental part of his game plan by holding his full-backs a little deep, but he may have no choice.
Liverpool will, as we have come to expect, play three central midfielders. If they are to have real success against Manchester City, however, they may want to bolster this further. They are at a disadvantage in that they boast no options like Monaco’s Tiemoue Bakayoko or Fabinho, but they should target Pep Guardiola’s one natural central midfielder.
Jurgen Klopp’s side can cease the initiative with a combative midfield display. It is unlikely that Guardiola will play both Fernandinho and Yaya Toure in the middle third, which is itself a target.
It is not as simple as pressing them hard; Liverpool must make sure they cut the supply lines to Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva or risk facing a torturous 90 minutes.
Playing a high line is asking for great troubles against Manchester City. With both teams doing so there will be swathes of ground for the rapid attacking players to exploit, but Liverpool must be more pragmatic.
Sane and Sterling, along with Sergio Aguero, are the ideal exponents of any space left behind the defence. Liverpool do not have the defence to compensate for that, either with intelligent positioning or pace. With the passing talents in Manchester City’s midfield, it will be a matter of time until City find themselves in acres of space behind the defence.
Attempting the offside trap seems like their only option, but it will require bravery, organisation and initiative from Liverpool’s backline.