Pep Guardiola has a plan in mind to face Liverpool on Sunday. It’s one that should prove a nightmare for Liverpool’s defenders.
Manchester City travel to Liverpool this weekend and it’s set to be one of the season’s biggest games. Few fixtures can touch it.
The defending champions host their biggest rivals over the last few years. Rivals who are currently seven points clear of them with a game in hand.
Liverpool must win to have any semi-realistic chance of retaining their title. City know that a win effectively knocks the champions out of the race.
It promises to be a tactical battle as much as physical battle and Pep Guardiola has a plan in mind for that.
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The Mirror says that the City boss wants to go 3-5-2 at Anfield. It’s a slight move away from his usual 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 formations.
It’s also one that could really trouble Liverpool.
A separate Mirror article suggests Jurgen Klopp has a plan, too – but one out of necessity, rather than choice. He will go with Jordan Henderson and Fabinho as his centre-back pairing.
In other words, he’ll use two midfielders there. That’s because he’s without Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip, of course, while he doesn’t want to throw in Ozan Kabak or Ben Davies just yet.
Unfortunately, City’s own plan is exactly what Liverpool won’t want. Which is almost certainly why Guardiola want to use it, really.
The 3-5-2 will likely see Gabriel Jesus up top with Raheem Sterling. It means City will have to highly-mobile forwards directly up against Henderson and Fabinho.
But Henderson and Fabinho are not used to that. Very few teams play with a real front two, with most opting for a front-three or a sole striker.
Here are two teams who did play against Liverpool with a forward partnership, though – Southampton and Burnley.
Both beat Liverpool 1-0.
In fact, Fabinho and Henderson were the centre-back partnership against Southampton.
And neither of those teams had a forward duo as good as Jesus and Sterling. Nor did they have anywhere near the possession City will have on Sunday. More of the ball and better players means a lot more threat.
Fabinho and Henderson just aren’t natural centre-backs and while they can fill the role with some strengths, they don’t have the know-how for traditional duties.
Can they reliably mark a striker without any help? Can they defend inside their own box? City plan to ask these questions again and again on Sunday.
Liverpool might need to change their own plan or they won’t like the answers.