- Arthiac Team
Manchester City make the trip to Liverpool as they face Jurgen Klopp and his men at Anfield in the biggest game of the weekend just before the international break.
It's the 2019-20 Premier League Champions against the 2020-21 Premier League Champions, first against second in the table this season. The game just doesn't get much bigger than this!
Jurgen Klopp will want to put in a James Bond performance on Sunday night as he will look to make a statement against his counterpart, Pep Guardiola.
Both managers would want to win this game without a shadow of a doubt as it would boost the morale within the dressing room and a win would also give Sunday's winners a head-start over the others to win the Premier League right at the opening weekend of October.
It will be an interesting weekend for Manchester City as they will be looking to go out on hostile turf and set a real benchmark for everyone to see, including their doubters about what is to come of the Citizens for the remainder of this season.
They come into this fixture on the back of a well-deserved 1-0 win away from home against Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea as Gabriel Jesus found the back of the net in the second half which put Man City within close quarters of all the others challenging for the title after they came off a disappointing 0-0 draw against Southampton two weeks ago at the Etihad stadium.
Pep Guardiola will be desperate to send a message to his title rivals that they are still in the hunt for a second consecutive Premier League title, despite the absence of a number nine.
However, as big as this game might be on paper, both teams will still have to work incredibly hard throughout the course of this season as there are sides that have the resilience to frustrate and deny Liverpool and Manchester City.
Liverpool looked like a side that were defensively rock solid and well organised as they had conceded just once in their previous five games, but last weekend was a display that didn't show any signs of an organised Liverpool set up in their defensive half as they conceded thrice away from home at the Brentford Community Stadium.
Deep Dive into this fixture
City's season has been a rollercoaster so far this season as they lost their opening fixture of the 2021-22 Premier campaign against Spurs, but then they went on to win three games in a row against Norwich, Arsenal and Leicester City. They sealed victories against an Arsenal and Leicester City side that are European contenders as well, if not the Champions League with all due respect to both those sides.
However, a week after defeating Leicester City 1-0 at the King Power Stadium, the Citizens drew their home game against a resilient Southampton side who kept Man City at bay even though Raheem Sterling found the back of the net in the 90th minute of the game.
The following weekend, Man City travelled to West London and concretely dominated the Blues on hostile territory as they restricted the brute force, strength and quality of Romelu Lukaku and his crew. Man City took that game to a whole new level as they could have won by 3 or 4 goals, but 3 points are 3 points and claiming a win of that magnitude cannot be underwritten.
Against Chelsea, the Man City boss got his tactics right as he made his forward men press higher up the field to contain Chelsea's movement on and off the ball, which ultimately denied the Blues' moving forward and that was why Lukaku was a silent figure up front in front of goal.
This goes to show that "nothing comes easy" in the Premier League, especially this season!
If you look at it, it's always difficult to call for a winner in this fixture. Generally, you would be able to pick which side has the advantage over the other, but if you look at it, it's much more difficult to favour a side this time around as there is no consistency between both these clubs, even more so for the visitors.
In the Champions League, Pep Guardiola fell prey to PSG at the Parc des Princes stadium as the Citizens were not able to break through the Parisian defensive line, but the performance was there to be seen.
If Man City managed to win that game, you would be sitting down with your coffee on Sunday morning looking at the blue side of Manchester to have the edge in this fixture. Nevertheless, since the start of this season, it's been an issue of inconsistency for this Man City side as they have not been able to cross the finishing line with ease and comfort considering the number of open-play chances that they create.
For Man City, they can take a lot of courage and belief from Liverpool's draw against Brentford.
For once, Liverpool faced that kind of threat from the opposition who took the game to them and they fell apart. In that fixture, you could probably see that Jurgen Klopp was staring down the barrel to claim all 3 points, but to his disappointment, the Bees came back twice into the game to steal a point from the Reds.
It was just one of those games where Liverpool failed defensively, but that was one of the factors in that game that we looked upon to analyse where Liverpool's game is on a defensive point of view.
There is no doubt that Liverpool will be much better defensively on Sunday, but in order for that to happen, they need their forward men to drop back and contribute defensively to contain Man City.
Man City are not going to change the way they play and oppose themselves to their opposition. Pep Guardiola will not shy away from the big boys, especially with the squad he has on his file.
This is where we feel that Diogo Jota will be a prime candidate to run across the field and keep City at bay for large portions of the game. Curtis Jones could also play a huge role in this fixture in midfield. Not to forget, Liverpool's James Milner may also play a key part in containing the left hand side of Man City's attack, which could include the likes of Cancelo and Bernardo Silva, with Kevin De Bruyne lurking on either flank in and across the 18-yard box.
We could say that Liverpool have the edge because they play at Anfield, especially considering that Pep doesn't have a good record on that ground, but another reason why you could support the above statement is because Liverpool have runners on and off the ball.
Man City may dominate, but the likes of Salah, Mane and Jota (If he starts ahead of Firmino) will certainly reduce the threat that Liverpool's defenders will have to face.
Trent Alexander Arnold is missing for this game due to a groyne injury, and this is where the experience and energy levels of Milner will come into play for Liverpool down their right-hand side.
Henderson will also be a key part of this Liverpool set-up. As far as we've seen him, he drops back slightly and looks for a forward pass to set their fiery wingers in Salah and Mane up the field.
The Reds have always got willing runners in their squad, which is a huge bonus for Jurgen Klopp, as he wanted a team that approached and played the game the way he wanted it.
In a game of this magnitude, you have key battles at every single position on the pitch. There is no place to hide in a fixture such as this.
You could lose multiple key battles in this game. With Trent out for this game, James Milner would be the likely replacement at right-back. Although Klopp has mentioned that Neco Williams could be in contention to start this game, we'll go in favour of Milner, who is an experienced pro at this level.
With Man City being swift and cheesy on the ball, Milner will have to face multiple battles in the game, starting off with Jack Grealish.
The record signing for Man City has been extremely influential in the way they play and finish off games. There is no doubt that Grealish will be testing the hamstring of Milner when they both face off at Anfield.
With Pep Guardiola asking his boys to lurk around, Kevin De Bruyne will also be a key figure on the left hand side of City's attack alongside Grealish.
Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling are also within contention to start the game and hence, we could see Robertson being held back as he may have to stress his workload defensively.
When it comes to Milner, he will also need to contain the likes of Portuguese right-back Joao Cancelo, who will be a colossal figure up and down the left flank for Man City with Zinchenko unavailable and Kyle Walker taking up the right-back spot.
He has a beautiful delivery with both his feet and he will be a key asset to the Citizens if they have to find a way past Liverpool's Virgil Van Dijk and Joel Matip.
Speaking about VVD, we've got yet another key/tactical battle on our cards.
It's between Salah and Cancelo. There is no denying that this could be another intriguing battle in the game alongside Grealish and Milner.
Cancelo will not be tracking back much in this game.He may even play in midfield.
However, with his thrust up front, it may lead to spaces in behind the left channel for Liverpool to exploit with Salah stationed over on the right flank, and that is when VVD comes into the fold as he constantly looks up front for a ball over the top onto Mane on the left hand side of Liverpool's attack.
However, this time around, he could switch it up a bit and find Salah instead of Mane. Kyle Walker will be in the zone guarding Mane, but with Zinchenko out of the picture, Cancelo will mostly start on the left hand side, which should see Salah looking to exploit Cancelo's defensive weakness.
We should see an open game here, but it's a game that will be well balanced and disciplined.
This is where Liverpool could really exploit a Manchester City team that is expected to be set up well and disciplined overall.
However, you can't be perfect all the time. It is tactical football when you deliver a ball across from centre-back over the top to your forwards because, when you're defending, a ball from over the top can break your structure as you need to chase back and set your opposition free 1-on-1 in front of goal.
This is where VVD's delivery over the top onto Salah or even Mane would not just take the team forward, but also bring the midfielders and and forward men into the opponent's half and threaten them on goal given the quality and calibre that Liverpool have in their forward line.
The threat that Man City have to face in this game is the sheer ruthlessness and precision of Liverpool's front 4 (If you keep it that way).
So far this season, Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Diogo Jota, and Roberto Firmino sit with 5, 3, 3, and 1 goal (s) respectively, so far this early in the season. That speaks volumes of their desire to find the back of the net this campaign, as they want to be in and amongst the goalscorers, which brings in really healthy competition within their side.
Firmino will be such a key figure for Liverpool on Sunday night as he will drop deeper and make the wide men push forward inside the penalty box, ultimately pushing Robertson higher up the field to keep the attacking threat going.
Both sides have a really good back line, with Man City clearly having the edge over the Reds, but at the end of the day, there's no back line that is "perfect."
We saw this in the games when Liverpool took on Brentford. We also saw it when Man City took on PSG, but you could argue that PSG had a formidable front 3 that could stretch and tear your defensive line.
We are in for a cracker on Sunday, wherever you may be tuning in to watch the game, as it is the clash of the giants in modern-day Premier League football.
Both these sides have got the quality and personnel on the field to change the dynamic of the game with a goal at any given stage of the game.
Both managers will not be wasting any time on Sunday, as they will go out all guns blazing to get all three points at Anfield, knowing how important this game is to their chances of winning the league.
It has to be said, you can't win the Premier League so early in the season just as October starts to kick in, but you can take a giant step forward and lay a benchmark for yourselves as a team to reach colossal heights.