| 16.1°C Dublin

exclusive I fancy Liverpool to beat Man City today and the roar of Anfield will send a shiver down Guardiola's spine

Blues boss has admitted he has changed his approach to the game because of Klopp and Liverpool

Close

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp forced Pep Guardiola to change his tactics

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp forced Pep Guardiola to change his tactics

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp forced Pep Guardiola to change his tactics

ON the eve of the biggest game of the Premier League season so far, Pep Guardiola served up the ultimate compliment to Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool.

The Manchester City manager went on record a few years back to confess that the roar of the Anfield crowd sends a shiver of fear down his spine when he has been standing in the opposition dug-out and at his press conference one Friday, he has admitted he has changed his approach to the game because of Klopp and Liverpool.

The 5-1 hammering dished out to City by Liverpool in the 2018 Champions League quarter-finals left a lasting scar on Pep and we saw the impact of that the next time he came to Anfield.

That was the day he ripped up his attacking football philosophy, applied the handbrake and did all he could to stop Liverpool.

Riyad Mahrez missed a late penalty to win that game for City, but the big memory I took away from that match was of Klopp forcing one of the most successful managers in football history to change the way he played.

No manager had done it before and not many will do it again, but it highlighted the reality that Guardiola does not believe his side can match Liverpool in a game of attacking football.

What followed confirmed that for him.

Liverpool’s Champions League win in 2019 and their Premier League title triumph a year later, as they knocked City off their perch as champions of England, added to the impression that Klopp (inset) had the upper hand over Guardiola.

Close

Man City manager Pep Guardiola was forced into a rethink

Man City manager Pep Guardiola was forced into a rethink

Man City manager Pep Guardiola was forced into a rethink

Then the pandemic hit and Guardiola got his first win at Anfield last season, but the 4-1 win in February came under very special circumstances.

Liverpool had no central defenders for the game, the stadium that carries them to victory was empty and everything went in City’s favour.

The story set to will play out today will be very different, with The Kop back in full cry and burning with motivation to see Liverpool put Guardiola and his side in their place.

While I’m normally cautious ahead of these big matches, I fancy Liverpool to beat City today and there are few reasons for my optimism.

First of all, let me state my belief that these two teams are still the best in the Premier League and I expect one of them to be champions this season.

They have quality performers in every position and proven track records for winning trophies, but the big factor in Liverpool’s favour is their superior forward line.

Sunday World Newsletter

Sign up for the latest news and updates

This field is required This field is required

This might come back to bite me when the final whistle sounds at Anfield this afternoon, but I don’t think City are as big an attacking threat as they have been in recent years.

They drew a blank in a 0-0 draw at their Etihad Stadium against Southampton a couple of weeks back and even though they turned in a disciplined performance to beat Chelsea last weekend, they only scored one goal again.

That was before they missed chances in their Champions League defeat against Paris Saint-Germain and even though Guardiola likes to play with a false No.9, they are lacking a clinical finisher to take the chances they are creating.

Back in the days when City were smashing five and six goals past teams every week, Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne and the rest were winning matches with so much ease they barely needed to get out of first gear at times.

Guardiola’s efforts to tighten up the defensive side of City’s game means they are creating less chances and that it means they need to be decisive when the big chances come.

Liverpool have a different problem as they have got back to scoring goals at a rapid rate and have score three or more goals in each of their last six matches.

Close

Liverpool have found their scoring touch again

Liverpool have found their scoring touch again

Liverpool have found their scoring touch again

The 5-1 win against FC Porto on Tuesday night was another example of Liverpool clicking back into top gear, with Mo Salah already scored eight goals this season.

The trouble for Liverpool in this game is they might not create as many chances against City, so they need to be decisive when their chances come.

What we saw in the 3-3 draw at Brentford last week was a Liverpool team throwing away a couple of points because they didn’t take the chances to kill the match when they went 3-2 ahead.

Yet if we wind back to the last time City came to Anfield in the second month of this year, Salah, Mane and Firmino looked like they would never score again as their form had deserted them.

That crisis is now officially over, the confidence is back for Salah and the goals are flowing for Liverpool again, which will be a worry for City.

Another issue in the Brentford game was Liverpool’s difficulty dealing with well-directed balls into the box and I’m sure Guardiola noted this weakness dealing with crosses.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Klopp and his coaching staff have been working on stopping crosses coming into their box and dealing better with them when they get there because it has been a problem this season, even with Virgil van Dijk back at the heart of the defence.

As always in these top-of-the-table clashes, the first goal today will be crucial.

If Liverpool score first, the Anfield crowd will get behind them, City will have to come out of their shell and then there will only be one winner.

On the other hand, if the visitors get the first strike in, it will play into Guardiola’s hands, as he can then look to shut up shop and see the game out.

We might be about to see the two best teams in European football go head-to-head and the winner of this game will strike a big early blow in this season’s title race.

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices


Privacy