Pep Guardiola isn’t any stranger to titanic soccer matches however Sunday’s recreation between Manchester City and Liverpool at Anfield is, doubtless, one of many largest he has overseen throughout his time in England.
The back-to-back reigning champions discover themselves within the unfamiliar place of second place within the Premier League desk forward of an unforgiving festive schedule and extra disconcertingly for Guardiola, City are six factors adrift of their title rivals.
Liverpool’s response to lacking out on a maiden Premier League title by a single level final time round has been to hold on in a lot the identical vein, with Manchester United the one group to disclaim them three factors to this point 11 video games into the season.
Jordan Henderson doesn’t assume a lot of it however the tag ‘Mentality Monsters’ used to explain Liverpool beneath Jurgen Klopp has been seized upon with some justification over current weeks with the group persevering with to rack up outcomes even when not enjoying notably properly.
Not solely are Liverpool in good kind heading into this weekend’s conflict, however they’ve additionally been imperious at Anfield for a while. Crystal Palace have been the final group to beat them at house within the Premier League again in April 2017 – a run which spans 45 matches.
Having didn’t win in any of his 4 matches at Anfield, Guardiola should get his ways spot on this time and the City boss might draw inspiration from the home rivals who’ve most just lately foiled Klopp’s plans.
Manchester United’s profitable technique
This Manchester United group is, by frequent consensus, one of many worst in current reminiscence and but, they’ve held Liverpool twice within the final three Premier League matches wherein they’ve didn’t safe a win.
In February, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s aspect performed out a forgettable 0-0 draw at Old Trafford they usually have been six minutes away from bettering that effort in a extra compelling encounter final month earlier than Adam Lallana salvaged a 1-1 draw.
On each events, regardless of being the house group, United surrendered possession to their guests, having simply 32 per cent of the ball in February’s fixture and 35 per cent just a few weeks in the past – properly beneath this season’s common of 54 per cent.
The statistics from October’s recreation present that Liverpool accomplished 2.5 instances extra passes than United and had double the variety of pictures on the right track with 4 to 2, however the house aspect have been well-deserving of a degree regardless.
Nullify the full-backs
Solskjaer’s tactical acumen has been referred to as into query at instances, however he acquired it spot on against Liverpool. A 5-3-2 formation regarded defensive at kick-off however the inclusion of Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Ashley Young as wing-backs largely nullified Liverpool’s chief supply of creativity – the full-backs.
Alongside Kevin De Bruyne, Trent Alexander-Arnold has been probably the most inventive participant within the Premier League this season, however he was compelled into crossing from deeper positions as a result of strain utilized on him by Young at left wing-back.
Typically, the one time when certainly one of United’s wing-backs had a lapse in focus they have been punished as Andrew Robertson supplied an help for Lallana’s equaliser after being given an excessive amount of time to ship the ball into the field.
Guardiola has proven reluctance to play a again three for a lot of his time in English soccer. In 125 Premier League matches in control of Manchester City, Guardiola has solely used three on the again on ten events, half of which got here throughout an experimental debut season, in line with Whoscored.
In principle, he has the personnel to do it with Kyle Walker, Joao Cancelo, Angelino and Benjamin Mendy just about enjoying as wing-backs anyway, whereas deploying three on the again together with pure midfielder Fernandinho would match Liverpool up and doubtlessly assist compensate for no Aymeric Laporte.
Guardiola’s favoured three-man midfield wouldn’t be compromised both permitting Kevin De Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva to play of their pure positions, whereas Raheem Sterling has ceaselessly performed in a central position in help of a predominant striker for England over the previous couple of years.
Using break up strikers against Liverpool was a ploy that labored properly for Solskjaer because the pacey duo of Marcus Rashford and an out-of-position Daniel James, induced issues with their tempo and motion on the counter-attack.
Given how a lot of an onus Klopp locations on Alexander-Arnold and Robertson to produce attacking width and crosses from out large, there’s a large duty on the midfielders to shuttle throughout into the half-spaces to cowl them.
Against United, although, Liverpool discovered that Rashford and James have been comfortable to carry their positions excessive up the pitch and behind the large central midfielders Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum, leaving them one-on-one with the centre-backs Virgil Van Dijk and Joel Matip as an alternative.
This was in proof throughout United’s aim. After Scott McTominay acquired possession of the ball he performed it into James who had darted behind Wijnaldum in midfield, leading to him being up against Van Dijk, overlaying within the left-hand channel for the superior Robertson.
Van Dijk defends the 18-yard-box in addition to anybody in world soccer, but he doesn’t relish being dragged exterior of the confines of the penalty space, as proven by his hesitancy to shut down James regardless of the area he discovered himself in.
Having burst away from Wijnaldum’s tried restoration run and been given the liberty of Old Trafford to carry his head and select Rashford, James then had the standard to whip the ball past Matip and into the trail of his onrushing teammate to attain.
If James and Rashford can trigger the Liverpool backline that a lot bother, there isn’t any logical motive why Sterling and certainly one of Gabriel Jesus or Sergio Aguero can’t do likewise.
Speaking to Sky Sports this week, Klopp rubbished the suggestion that it is a ‘must-win game’ for both aspect, as an alternative insisting that it’s a ‘would like to win’ match for his group. That may be true for Liverpool however for City, that is merely a should not lose fixture.
Doing so would depart Liverpool a certainly insurmountable 9 factors clear and provides them their largest alternative to finish their Premier League hoodoo. A CIty win would blow issues large open, in fact, however a draw wouldn’t be disastrous for Guardiola with a house assembly to come back in April.
City have the attacking weapons to trigger any group issues however then so too do Liverpool. It would go against Guardiola’s deeply ingrained rules however maybe by adopting a extra cautious method at Anfield, his group can make sure that the title race nonetheless has loads of legs left to run.