2019 has only just begun but we’re about to witness the biggest game of the Premier League season.

Manchester City vs. Liverpool is the champions vs. their challengers, Guardiola vs. Klopp, the best attack vs. the best defence, blue vs. red, new money vs. the establishment, possession vs. counter-attacks… all that good stuff.

City were top of the league a month ago, but a rocky December saw a lights out Liverpool leap ahead of them, seven points ahead of them to be exact. Now the Merseysiders have gone from a great side that was going to push City to the end but probably come up short to being everyone’s favourite to end Liverpool’s near-30-year title drought.

But exactly how could Liverpool secure a win that would all but guarantee them the title? And what would City have to do to beat the Reds and bring the title race back into sharp focus? We’ve had a look and come up with some answers:

How To Beat City at the Etihad

Two teams have beaten Manchester City at home this season: Lyon and Crystal Palace. That’s just one less than in the whole of last season and there’s still half a campaign to go. Liverpool were one of the teams to beat them there last season, but that was the second leg of a Champions League tie heavily conditioned by the first. In terms of a league game the Reds haven’t won there since before Guardiola’s time.

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So what can Liverpool learn from the kids and the Eagles? Well there’s always the fact that both clubs have blue and red in their crest and Liverpool have–ah, damn. So is there anything these results have in common? Anything Liverpool can take as they travel to fortress Etihad?

Well, yes: if you look at the first goal City conceded in both games, it came as a result of the ball travelling from left-to-right. Maxwell Cornet’s goal came from a Nabil Fekir cross from City’s right-flank, and Jeffrey Schlupp’s goal came from a shot from the Dutchman as he penetrated on City’s right-flank – getting into the box and finding enough room to shoot when he should have been stopped.

It’s not just defeats where this has been an issue. City just about beat Newcastle 2-1 early in the season and the shock equaliser they conceded from DeAndré Yedlin came from, yup you guessed it, a cross from their left (aka Manchester City’s right-flank).

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The chief victim in both instances was Kyle Walker. The England international had a fantastic 2017/18 and World Cup, but his form in 2018/19 hasn’t been anywhere near as solid and he has often found himself getting ran at and unable to deal with pressure.

He doesn’t close his wingers enough, giving them room to cross or shoot (and neither of City’s left-backs is a great defender, so can be exposed by any bright forward). Moreover when caught out of position, Walker is prone to rash mistakes such as his foul on Max Meyer that gave away a penalty and allowed Palace to score what ended up being the game-winning goal.

For Liverpool, this provides a clear path to goal: Attack Walker. With Sadio Mané and the tireless Andrew Robertson out on the left, Jurgen Klopp’s men are perfectly placed to do just that. And with the likes of Mohamed Salah now moving off the ball and into spaces around where City’s weak left-backs should be, the Reds’ chances to score should they follow this approach will be greatly increased.

How To Score Against Liverpool

Liverpool have conceded just 8 goals in the league this season. No side has scored against them more than once on the domestic front. Sure, in Europe they’ve found themselves getting flambéd at the back, especially away from home, but domestically it’s not been an issue.

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One never wants to ignore the Champions League, but it’s hard to draw too much from the games because Liverpool’s away day horror genuinely doesn’t seem to be an issue when travelling within the country. Moreover the goals they conceded on the continent have only a loose theme to them all: playing fast attacks out wide seems to trouble Liverpool.

But looking domestically, what can we see? Well, low crosses seem to be an recurring theme. Half of the goals conceded have come because of a low cross: Ghezzal for Leicester, Paterson for Huddersfield, Lingard for Manchester United and Maitland-Niles for Arsenal.

This makes sense; Virgil van Dijk is a supremely confident defender in the air, so any time you send a high cross in he’s likely going to deal with it. But whipping it in low and hard and fast means even the great Dutchman could be bypassed.

Taking this with the Champions League goals conceded to Napoli and, to an extent, PSG and the pattern begins to emerge. Attack Liverpool at pace down the flanks, exposing the attacking focus of their full-backs, then send fast low crosses in that evade Van Dijk and cause panic amongst their less-godlike defenders. Or even Alisson.

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Yeah, that’s right, Alisson has actually been at fault for some of the goals conceded this season. He’s an improvement on Loris Karius, especially in terms of his haircut and beard. But even though he’s being hailed as Goalkeeping Jesus he’s not actually as good as the very best goalkeepers in the world right now, despite the superb defensive displays of Liverpool as a whole.

Look at Leicester’s goal, where he got caught trying to Cruyff Turn Kelechi Iheanacho. Or when he ran out of his goal to face Alexandre Lacazette only to then hold back from challenging him, yet stay well out of his goal, creating the angle that allowed the Frenchman to score.

Or against Burnley where his initial save from a James Tarkowski header was poor and palmed the ball out into danger, and his attempts to recover said ball were weak and Jack Cork gave the Clarets a huge lead. Then there was Manchester United where he just straight dropped Romelu Lukaku’s low cross at the feet of Jesse Lingard.

Finally there’s the Ainsley Maitland-Niles goal, where a beautiful low cross from Alex Iwobi drew Alisson off his line, but instead of jumping on the ball, he just sort of ran up to it and then realised it was going too quickly and threw himself at Maitland-Niles’ shot, which was already in the back of the net by the time he got anywhere near it.

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So Goalkeeping Jesus is great, but he’s not invulnerable, and taken with Liverpool’s general weakness crosses Manchester City’s blueprint is clear: get it wide (fast) and cross the ball low and hard. This both avoids Liverpool’s best defender and unsettles their goalkeeper.

What’s more; City have just the players to do it. If Benjamin Mendy was fit you’d have to make Pep Guardiola’s men (who excel at creating low cross/cutback opportunities) the heavy favourites for this, but as is they will only have Leroy Sané and Raheem Sterling to call upon. Will that be enough to disrupt, destabilise and devastate the most dominant defence in the Premier League? Time will tell!

The post Man City v Liverpool: A blueprint for each team ahead of this season’s biggest game appeared first on Squawka News.

Source : Hitng.info