Thursday 14 November 2019

Liverpool v Manchester City: Five issues Guardiola must consider ahead of pivotal battle

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola gestures on the touchline during the Premier League match at The Etihad Stadium, Manchester. PA Photo. Picture date: Saturday November 2, 2019, See PA story SOCCER Man City. Photo credit should read: Martin Rickett/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: EDITORIAL USE ONLY No use with unauthorised audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola gestures on the touchline during the Premier League match at The Etihad Stadium, Manchester. PA Photo. Picture date: Saturday November 2, 2019, See PA story SOCCER Man City. Photo credit should read: Martin Rickett/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: EDITORIAL USE ONLY No use with unauthorised audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola. Photo: Reuters/Jason Cairnduff

Luke Edwards

Will Guardiola try to get under the skin of Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool's players on the touchline?

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola is not always a nice person to deal with, and there is a spiky, petulant side to his character that revealed itself against Southampton when things were not going his way.

There were accusations from the Saints coaching staff that he had goaded them when City scored both their goals, and there was tension in the technical areas as City's manager remained in a state of agitation.

Klopp is one of the most theatrical touchline managers in the modern game, leaping and gurning, shouting and gesticulating.

He is like a one-man improvisation show and has also been known to irritate rival managers with his over-the-top celebrations, complaints to the fourth official and persistent appeals for free kicks.

Guardiola is not always so keen to draw attention to himself, but it might be best to fight fire with fire at Anfield, to wind up his opposite number and the home support.

It is not very edifying, but it may be the sort of game that needs him to play up to the occasion.

Can he tighten up a defence that continues to make too many mistakes?

If Manchester City's defence continue to make the same sort of basic errors that have riddled far too many of their performances this season, they will lose to Liverpool.

The loss of Aymeric Laporte is still being acutely felt, and although it was encouraging to see John Stones enjoy a return to form of sorts against Southampton on Saturday, Liverpool's vibrant attacking play will pose more complex problems than Ralph Hasenhuttl's side.

Even so, City made things harder for themselves by allowing the visitors to take the lead, which meant they had to chase the game and gave the Saints something to defend. This time, it was an error by goalkeeper Ederson that made things complicated.

City had started the game well, knocking on the Southampton door with force, when they fell behind. There was no excuse, Ederson saw Stuart Armstrong's shot from the second it left his boot, but the Brazilian failed to smother it, the ball bouncing off his chest straight to James Ward-Prowse, who was in the right place to guide it home.

If City fall behind against Liverpool, it is difficult to imagine them going on to win the match - and a win at Anfield has to be the target to crank up the pressure in the title race.

How will he handle the pre-match media jousting?

Football games are won on grass, not in press conferences - but some things that happen before the match can play a part in helping a team gain even the smallest advantage.

Call them mind games, if you must - although managers tend to shy away from talk of winding up their opposite number these days - but Guardiola must decide how to handle the build-up to such a pivotal game.

Will he continue to play down the significance of the trip to Anfield and deny that his team need to win to retain the title?

Realistically, you would have thought City at least need to avoid defeat on Merseyside, even at such a relatively early stage of the campaign, but Guardiola may well feel it is better to relieve some of the pressure on his players.

The fact he has already accused Liverpool's Sadio Mane of diving, without prompting - a blatant dig designed to antagonise their opponents - suggests Guardiola will look to use the media in mischievous ways.

Which players need to be rested in the Champions League this week?

Manchester City are cruising through their group, so they can afford to send out a weaker team against Italian side Atalanta this week than they will undoubtedly field against Liverpool.

They thrashed Atalanta 5-1 last month, so does it make sense to leave the likes of Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling, Fernandinho, Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan out of the starting XI? It probably does.

This is the ideal game for Guardiola to make use of squad rotation. Liverpool will almost certainly do the same when they host Genk.

Telegraph.co.uk

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