Only one club was capable of beating Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City on more than one occasion last season and that was Liverpool. The Reds triumphed over the Citizens in the Premier League and in both legs of their Champions League tie. This time around, the reigning champions will be keen to ensure that they come away from Anfield with all three points.
Last season, Klopp’s celebrated Gegenpressing system – which sees his side operate an intense, relentless high press and seek to break on the counter with numbers and speed – proved to be City’s undoing. However, a method of negotiating the challenges that Liverpool pose could lay in Chelsea’s recent encounters with the Reds.
The Blues have knocked Liverpool out of the Carabao Cup this season and were only a last gasp Daniel Sturridge screamer away from earning another victory over Klopp’s men days later. One way in which they sought to neutralise Liverpool’s swashbuckling attack was by taking a firm control of the midfield and cutting off the attackers’ supply lines.
City have midfielders of the requisite quality to repeat this trick. Also, in their centre-back options such as Aymeric Laporte, John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi, they possess defenders with enough on-the-ball-ability to be able to play around Liverpool’s high press.
City also had these attributes last season though, when they fell to defeat to Liverpool. Therefore, Guardiola must make further changes to the way his side approach the fixture this time around.
A key aspect of City’s forward play is their attacking full-backs. Guardiola would be wise to curb his full-backs’ aggressive instincts for this match in acknowledgement of the potent threat that Liverpool’s front three pose.
Further, Fernandinho, at the base of City’s midfield, ought to adopt a man-marking role that sees him take James Milner out of the game. Liverpool are hugely reliant upon the 32-year-old’s ability to link the play between midfield and attack. Diminishing Milner’s influence would upset Liverpool’s rhythm and allow City to gain the ascendancy.