Wed. Aug 10th, 2022

There’s a very easy way to make good players look like world beaters: give them time and space. Liverpool and Manchester City are stacked high with quality that can tear any opposition apart if they are allowed to play on their own terms, so it will be incredibly important for both sides to conduct a perfect press match when they meet at Anfield on Sunday.

The match could be won by the work done outside the ball. City showed how to do this against Chelsea and Liverpool will be very careful not to fall into similar traps. City held the ball, with a clear 62 percent of possession. City thwarted their opponents’ plan to play from behind thanks to the relentless nature of the strikers – something they will see repeat in Liverpool.

This is a tough week for City, playing three of their most intense matches of the season in nine days, the match in Liverpool coming after matches in Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain. They have injury problems and given the intensity of their play, they may wither in the later stages of Sunday. It takes a lot of physical energy and mental concentration to be repeatedly in the right place to press effectively.

City have conceded a lone goal in six league games receiving the credit for the defense, but these defenders will thank the strikers for their hard work in making this possible. The pressure in front makes things easier for the defenders because they know where the next pass goes from the opposition so they can protect the area in front of them and quickly lift the threat.

It drains to spend 90 minutes pressing. It takes a long time to fall from the high because it is such an adrenaline rush. If you have a game at 8pm, you only get down at three or four in the morning. Recovery starts the next day, but then you prepare for the next game, so training is really short – and it is important to control your mind and body effectively during these intense periods.

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We will see the entire Citys season that they will go to the press in tops and troughs because no one can sustain it over a long period of time. They are so good in possession against weaker teams that they do not have to put too much pressure on them, which means City can save the relentless press to the top sides.

Pep Guardiola and Jürgen Klopp, like Alex Ferguson, have previously had a strategy to attack this most crucial of weeks, with plans laid out for each match. They will have had perfect scenarios in their minds even though neither side has come through unscathed, with City losing in Paris and Liverpool losing points in Brentford, leaving both leaders plenty to consider.

This may distract the leaders from the original plan, but they have great players available and their flexibility is crucial at times like this. No one will be afraid to adjust at the last minute if they think it will help their team in the short term.

Ivan Toney (second right) and Bryan Mbeumo caused Liverpool trouble as Brentford bypassed the press by going more direct.
Ivan Toney (second right) and Bryan Mbeumo caused Liverpool trouble as Brentford bypassed the press by going more direct. Photo: David Horton / CameraSport / Getty Images

Overloading attacks on the left has been a useful tool for City this season as they try to get Jack Grealish into the game as much as possible. Chelsea struggled to cope with the combination of Grealish and João Cancelo and with the news that Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold is out, it would not be a surprise if City looked to repeat their trick as the duo began to sync on the left. flank.

Brentford showed how he came to Liverpool last week, scoring three goals against a defense that had closed once into their previous five league games. They saw that things were not working because Liverpool’s press were incredibly effective, so they got around it by going more directly. Ivan Toney and Bryan Mbeumo caused Virgil van Dijk and Joël Matip a number of problems thanks to their link-up play when they received the ball from the back.

City’s philosophy is to play from the defense and through teams to create chances, but Guardiola will not be afraid to mix things up for the sake of victory. We’ve seen in a number of seasons how Ederson can send a thriving long pass to the pitch’s highest point of attack to quickly change the direction of the game and capture a defense. I would not be surprised if Ferran Torres or Raheem Sterling started in midfield to allow City to stretch Liverpool’s backline, just as Brentford did.

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Liverpool will pay attention to how City like to dominate the midfield areas against their rivals at the top. Chelsea were unable to cope in the middle of the park because Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho lacked the physical ability to withstand City.

Klopp will certainly counteract this by using his strongest and most physical players in that department. Despite the injury problems Liverpool have in central midfield, they have shown for some time now that they have the necessary quality and stamina to form a three to go toe to toe with City.

Due to the pace of the game – and the need to break the press – it may look like a basketball game on Sunday. Whichever team renews most effectively to counter the pressure, they will give themselves the best chance of winning as Klopp and Guardiola try to best each other in their own game.

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