Liverpool will need Joe Gomez at his brilliant best when they take on Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Gomez, 23, has been a mainstay in the team in recent weeks and he is set for his biggest test at a ground he recently endured one of his worst Liverpool performances to date.
The Premier League champions have lost their previous three league encounters at City’s home ground, the most recent being a 4-0 defeat just days after Liverpool had mathematically secured the title.
It was a particularly miserable evening for Gomez in particular, who was hooked off at half-time having been run ragged by Raheem Sterling and conceded a penalty to the Englishman which gifted City an early advantage.
Liverpool icon Robbie Fowler labelled the team’s performance against City back in July as ‘embarrassing‘.
Indeed, the match itself must be looked at in the context that Liverpool were collectively and understandably off the pace following days of title celebrations. It isn’t nearly the same spectacle that Sunday offers with both teams firmly fighting for the title again this term.
This is undoubtedly one of the biggest games of the Premier League season. You could argue that it’s the outright biggest, given the title implications.
Liverpool and Manchester City have dominated English football for the best part of three seasons, collectively winning the trophy over that period and you’d expect either one of the two teams to go the distance again this time around.
You need to be at your best for such an occasion, even more so in the absence of the club’s defensive lynchpin Virgil van Dijk.
Liverpool are worryingly light in defence with Fabinho also on the sidelines following a hamstring injury. Both Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams have filled in at centre-half but both are vastly inexperienced. Jurgen Klopp will not want to risk either player against a team as formidable as City.
Playing them should be avoided and if Joel Matip is fit, should be utilised alongside Gomez in the heart of Liverpool’s defence.
What is required
We know Liverpool will be without Van Dijk, Fabinho, Thiago Alcantara and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain tomorrow afternoon, so what is the best strategy to combat City in their own backyard?
Liverpool are unlikely to dominate the ball, even more so in the absence of Thiago, meaning the Reds will have to be even more effective on the counter-attack. This comes from the defence.
Klopp will want to implement a system that enables a quick, pragmatic and functional style of football which forces players to break quickly as opposed to slowing down possession.
Jordan Henderson, Georginio Wijnaldmum and James Milner are likely to make up the midfield triumvirate in that case.
With that said, Liverpool’s established press will start from the back. Both Gomez and Matip will have to resolute in defence but also progressive in possession.
It is even more important that both are vocal and constantly communicating to each other given neither have been together before in what will be Jurgen Klopp’s 37th central defensive partnership since his tenure began in 2015.
All things considered, this is undoubtedly one of the biggest tests of both player’s careers so far. Let’s hope the defensive duo are up to the task.
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