Michael Mongie spoke to Goal.com’s Sam Lee ahead of Liverpool’s Premier League showdown with Manchester City at the Etihad on Saturday.
As with Arsenal, there is a history of high-scoring fixtures between Manchester City and Liverpool. Seeing as both sides are potent in attack but lack defensive competence, there is always the chance for free-scoring fixtures.
Between them, City and Liverpool conceded a combined 81 goals last season which is not up to scratch for two sides looking to be challenging for the league title.
On their day, however, Jürgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola can get their teams to play some of the most eye-catching football in Europe regardless of the respective defensive insecurities.
Some might argue that Liverpool’s troubles at the back make them a more enjoyable side to watch due to the number of goals on display at any given time. Of course, these aren’t Liverpool fans voicing this opinion.
To get a feeling of what to expect from an intriguing clash at the Etihad, I spoke to Goal.com’s Sam Lee who had all the right answers.
Liverpool and Manchester City certainly have priors but who do you think will come out on top after an interesting transfer window?
In terms of the business City did, they did very well, but the business they missed out on could well cost them over the season and I think we could see an example of that on Saturday. City are light at centre-back and an injury to Kompany would be very problematic.
They also have a problem finishing their chances, and although that could click into place at any moment it could be an issue again against Liverpool – as it was at the Etihad in March.
Jürgen Klopp’s record against ‘the top six’ while at Liverpool is flawless. How will Pep Guardiola look to outplay Liverpool?
I think the key for City will be that Liverpool will attack them. So far this season, and generally last season, teams have sat back. That’s given City problems and they have looked slow in the build-up play and have struggled to create chances.
Twice they have ruthlessly exploited mistakes by the opposition: their first goals at Brighton and Bournemouth. Both times the teams were caught out in their own half, with players ahead of the ball. While Liverpool will attack City and will surely score goals, they won’t be as compact as most teams and they will give City plenty of space to break into.
With the quality of De Bruyne and the Silvas, as well as the new pacy full-backs, Liverpool will have plenty to worry about.
How much of a worry will the pace of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané be to Man City with Pep’s three at the back system?
I’m not sure the 3-4-3 will be used this weekend. Firstly because Kompany may be injured, so they simply would not have the numbers. Even if Kompany is fit, I don’t think the 3-4-3 would work so well against Liverpool because Kompany and Otamendi have seen a lot of the ball this season, and don’t really know what to do with it.
Same goes, to a lesser extent, for Fernandinho. If Liverpool pressed those three players I think they’d have a lot of joy and could win the ball high up the pitch.
If that’s wrong and he does play 3-4-3, then obviously the pace of that attacking trio will be a particular worry if City lose it in their own half. With Mendy and Walker, however, City do have enough fast options to provide cover – as long as they’re in their set positions.
From the moment Klopp took charge of Liverpool and Pep Guardiola took over Man City, there’s been a huge debate over which manager possesses the best football philosophy. Is it Klopp’s gegenpressing or Guardiola’s possession-based style that’s best for you ahead of this match?
I’ve always been a huge fan of Guardiola and I just can’t see how anybody would say Klopp has the ‘best’ philosophy, all things considered. I certainly enjoyed watching Klopp’s Dortmund and Liverpool play some good stuff as well, but compared to what Guardiola has achieved it just doesn’t come close.
Compare his trophy record and the sheer domination of his Barca side to Klopp’s comparatively poor record in finals and there’s only one winner. Yeah, Guardiola has generally worked with better players, but he has taken them to heights (in terms of style as much as trophies) that I genuinely don’t believe any other manager could achieve.
Obviously Guardiola’s relative struggles in England have coloured people’s opinions of him recently, but I just don’t think you can overlook what he wants to do with his players and how he does it.
Beside the two minds on the touchlines, what are some of the key battles on the pitch you’ve highlighted as key to each side winning this match?
There’s gonna be battles all over the pitch, especially with the teams trying to rob the ball off each other’s midfield and strikers. City’s centre-backs can be got at, particularly by Liverpool’s quick forwards, but Liverpool’s defence isn’t up to much either and could just as easily have a bad afternoon.
It’ll also be interesting to see if Karius plays, because although he didn’t have anything to do against Arsenal he did lose the ball twice in his own box – City will be all over that.
Liverpool’s defensive problems are as much publicised as their brilliant attacking capabilities. How much confidence do you place in City’s backline? Would it be fair to claim that they have similar issues as their opponents?
I was saying for a lot of last season that City and Liverpool were having exactly the same issues, but I don’t think it’s quite like that this season, mainly because City’s full-backs are so much stronger now.
They haven’t had the same issues as last season yet, but as I say if Kompany is out for any period of time then that could change. But I do think the new full-backs will make a huge difference.
Part of each defence is, of course, the goalkeeper and both City’s and Liverpool’s ‘keeper problems have often been placed under intense scrutiny, how do you rate City’s Ederson? Could he be the solution for City?
He’s certainly got all the tools, but then again so does Bravo! His distribution is very good and we could see that on Saturday, especially with the game likely to be frantic. Look out for his giant goal kicks, either out of his hands or off the floor. He can hit it right up to the opposition penalty area and City will score goals from it this season.
I do think he has some mistakes in him, particularly as he’s very quick to race off his line, and he can leave himself stranded. He is young and you would expect he would learn to judge it better, so while I think he is a very good option long-term, he will have his ups and downs.
How much of an influence on the rest of each side’s season do you think the result of this match could have, or is it still too early to tell?
I think it’s way too early. City’s lack of options at the back could be a recurring issue, and though Liverpool could exploit it on Saturday it won’t the one defeat that has a knock-on effect, it’ll be more deep-lying issues. Same with the failure to take chances.
Similarly, I don’t think Liverpool’s season would be undone by a defeat. They had a couple of barren runs last season and still finished in the top four, and even if the ambition is to win the league (which I just can’t see), the silver lining would be that I don’t think any team will run away with it this year.
Manchester City and Liverpool ended last season with just one place separating them and have gone on to make similar starts to life in the Premier League this season. How big a gap do you think will exist between them come the end of the season and who finishes higher between the two rivals?
I think City will finish higher again this season but not by a huge margin, if they have the problems in defence that they had last season – and like I say City are short of options so that could be the case even with the new full-backs. I wouldn’t be surprised if City were 2nd and Liverpool were 3rd or 4th in a pretty tight top four.