The first leg of the thrilling UEFA Champions League quarter-finals between English giants Manchester City and Liverpool at Anfield is just two days away.
The fixture will see the footballing world witness two prominent attacking powers lock horns in order to qualify for the semi-finals of the most prestigious tournament in European Football.
On one side we have the Premier League table leaders Manchester City managed by the Spanish Genius – Pep Guardiola, and on the other we have the most successful English team in the European competitions Liverpool under the leadership of the fiery Jurgen Klopp.
Regardless of the result, the tie will give the lovers of the beautiful game a tactical treat for guaranteed 180 minutes and things cannot get more exciting.
We saw the Citizens demolish Liverpool 5-0 at Etihad earlier this season, but also were the observers when the Reds became the first and only team (so far) to defeat Manchester City in the league in January.
Even though there is 18 points difference between the clubs, quality wise they both are not much apart. Albeit a few problems here and there, Liverpool are up there with the Manchester club. However, Guardiola and his boys still have the edge over their opponents.
With that in mind, the Reds should be on their A-game in both of the legs to ensure their qualification to the next round. Klopp should strike where it hurts and take precautions to not get stung by City.
Here are a few tactical moves that Klopp can use against Pep in the coming two weeks.
Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva are, without doubt, City’s most venomous and to contain them should be the German manager’s one of the primary aims.
To nullify the impact of the two playmakers, Liverpool can either press the opponent defenders high up the pitch ensuring that they do not alway have the luxury of easily finding De Bruyne and Silva or in case the balls do come in to the two Liverpool can close down their passing lanes resulting in them not being able to hurt the Reds.
Even though I mentioned that De Bruyne and Silva are the most dangerous, it would be suicidal to ignore the perils of Leroy Sane and former Liverpool player Raheem Sterling.
The two wingers could cause a lot of havoc to the Reds fullbacks. Left-back Andy Robertson could keep Sterling at bay, but probably at the cost of his attacking freedom. However, Trent Alexander-Arnold could have a tough time against Sane.
Despite the teenager’s massive development this season, Alexander-Arnold is a weak link in the Liverpool team that has been targeted by few of their opponents.
If the youngster is not on top of his game for both the legs, Sane is guaranteed to make him and the team pay. Turning to Nathaniel Clyne, who has just returned from a long term injury, would be too much of a risk to take.
And on top of all that City will also have either Sergio Aguero (a doubt for first leg) or Gabriel Jesus in the number nine role, who needs to be contained at all costs.
Klopp should make his defence be compact, tight and narrow in order to keep their opposition tight-lipped. Individual errors must also be brought down to zero to ensure maximum stability.
We know that Pep builds his team around possession game, while Klopp opts for his high intensive ‘gegenpressing’. Naturally, Manchester City will be enjoying more time with the ball on the feet, but this would also enable Liverpool to highly press their challengers.
However, we should not forget that it is Pep on the other side and he should be taken with all seriousness. The former Barcelona manager would have learnt a lesson from his side’s defeat at Anfield and would prefer to enjoy lesser possession and press Liverpool back.
Liverpool have struggled to resist pressing from their opponents as we have seen against the likes of Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham Hotspurs.
The Reds players should be intelligent enough to pick the right timing to press City or just sit back and wait for them to come at them.
And Liverpool have the fabulous front three of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah in their Arsenal, who could fire the team to the Semi-finals. The side’s attack and its form gives the fans a big hope.
With the likes of Aguero, Jesus, Sterling, Sane, De Bruyne, Silva, Salah, Firmino and Mane in the two sides, one would expect the two legs to produce a lot of goals. Regardless of the result or the number of times that the goalkeepers could take the ball out of their nets, this tie could be one that could be talked about for the ages to come.
Written by Dakir Thanveer
Follow Dakir on Twitter @ZakWriter
Like O-Posts on Facebook
You can also follow O-Posts on Twitter @OPosts