The biggest match of the campaign awaits, as Anfield plays host to Manchester City on Sunday.
Liverpoolare currently top of the Premier League by six points having won ten of their 11 fixtures, but this weekendJurgen Klopp‘s side are faced with the opposition that denied their truly monumental season last year.
TheRedswon the Champions League, but had it not been for City, the team would have also secured the Premier League title, as well as remaining unbeaten and reaching the century mark regarding points.
Liverpool’s season may have been deemed as the b est ever witnessed from an English club, but because of Pep Guardiola and his side, that failed to materialize.
The opportunity for revenge has arrived, as for the first time, Liverpool seem equipped to go toe-to-toe with City in regard to dominating proceedings with possession.
Guardiola is renowned for his philosophical approach to the game, with that essentially being founded upon dominance and offensive football.
“I like the ball, I love the ball,” Guardiola once said. “To score a goal you need the ball. So as much as you have it and your percentage is higher, you have more chances to score a goal. I want to see my team try to play offensively, that is principle number one.”
Klopp has shrewdly allowed the Spaniard to impose his principles when the two have contested, with a view to exploiting Guardiola’s idealistic perception of the game.
In the large majority of meetings between the pair, Guardiola’s team have been allowed to assume control over the ball, while Klopp’s outfit remain compact and opt to control space, with an example pictured below .
The consequence of such a make-up has been possession for Guardiola, but penetration for Klopp.
The former’s team have previously tried to build plays intricately, but have suffered consistently as a result of being pounced upon by Klopp’s hungry underdogs once making a mistake.
17 clashes have occurred in all competitions, with the City boss winning seven and the German winning eight. Guardiola has lost more matches versus Klopp than against any other in his managerial career.
This time around, though, there is the interesting prospect of Klopp demanding control for the first time.
Since the last contest at Anfield,Fabinhohas been fully integrated into Liverpool’s starting line-up as the team’s holding midfielder, whileTrent Alexander-Arnoldhas established himself as one of Europe’s best ball progressors.
Those two players have contributed greatly to Liverpool’s new-found possession game, with the Reds regularly able to choke opposing teams into submission high up the field, while persistently probing with the ball in the final third.
Klopp’s team have showcased their overwhelming approach against the likes of Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal at Anfield this season, as well as impressively flustering Barcelona away from home in the Champions League last year despite eventually losing.
Last season’s clash with City on Merseyside featured Joe Gomez at right-back, James Milner in central midfield and Jordan Henderson as the team’s deepest lying midfielder. That wasn’t particularly problematic considering Klopp’s approach to facing Guardiola typically relies on creating opportunities through pressing, but he may not feel the need to assume that inferior role any longer.
City will be without Aymeric Laporte on Sunday who is their most capable and composed defender, and thefitness of Ederson, David Silva and Rodriis in doubt. Moreover, the latter as well as Joao Cancelo are yet to experience the ferocity of Anfield, and Fernandinho is having to operate as a center-back at present.
Leroy Sane is also injured, a player who’s speed is problematic for any opposing team wishing to press highly, as his pace is a real threat in behind. Raheem Stering is undoubtedly quick, but that largely derives from his immediate acceleration rather than his speed over long distances in the mold of Sane.
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The current situation is far from ideal for the City boss as his team seem considerably more vulnerable and less suited to facing Liverpool than before, while the home side appear stronger, particularly with the ball.
Klopp has previously refrained from instigated a full-throttle, all-action game against Guardiola largely because of the quality of the players that the Spaniard has often had at his disposal, as well as how proficient his team’s tend to be when tasked with building from the back. In addition, Klopp has often had to cope with the weaker players in comparison, which may no longer be the case.
The importance of the match, the Anfield factor and crucially, how each of the two teams have progressed since last year bout may result in a new stance being taken by the Liverpool boss.
The Reds attained a 0 -0 draw on Merseyside last year, and that ultimately proved to fall short from being enough to secure the Premier League crown.
This time around, perhaps Klopp will go all-out as a means of demonstrating his team’s genuine claim as England and Europe’s best, by removing the shackles from his players and exhibiting an intense, high-energy approach that was relatively muted during the previous encounter.