TACTICAL football boff Chris Bland (@blandc_1996) gives us the lowdown on Super Sunday's massive match-up between Liverpool and Manchester City.
Liverpool v Manchester City | Sunday 10th November 2019, 16:30 | Sky Sports
Liverpool host Manchester City in a mouthwatering encounter on Super Sunday, as victory for either side could prove pivotal to title ambitions. Six points separate the sides at the top of the table, and a win for the hosts would push them nine clear at the summit after only 12 games.
Liverpool come into the game fresh from a win over Genk, whilst City return from Atalanta with another injury worry at the back after Ederson was replaced at half-time by Claudio Bravo, who’s unconvincing performance came to an abrupt end with a red card 10 minutes from time. David Silva is also missing for the Citizens.
It is such a tactically unique game for both sides, and analysing how the pair will try and set-up is key to understanding where the value may lie.
Liverpool to focus on the full backs
Liverpool will look to line-up in a 4-3-3, and it would be no surprise to see City match them with their own 4-3-3 system.
A raucous atmosphere is expected at Anfield, and could help push Liverpool onto the front foot and into a quick start. City may be tempted to sit a little deeper than normal, in an attempt to guard against the pace of Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, as Jurgen Klopp’s midfield in these bigger games can arguably lack the creative nous to break teams down.
The Reds struggled against Manchester United when coming up against a deep defensive line, and Klopp will also be wary of guarding against the threat City pose. With a midfield trio of Fabinho, Jordan Henderson and Georgino Wijnaldum expected, solidity centrally will be key, and creativity will come elsewhere.
As a result, Liverpool’s main threat will come from out wide. The full backs will look to push on and provide the width and overlaps, and it could be down City’s left side where they can target. With Oleksandr Zinchenko out, Benjamin Mendy is expected to start, and he will be reliant upon the defensive work of his winger in front to help.
Trent Alexander-Arnold will constantly look to provide an overlap/width for Salah, allowing the Egyptian to drift inside and attempt to isolate one of City’s centre backs.
City to utilise the counter?
With Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson expected to push on, Raheem Sterling will be a key outlet for City on the break, and as many a side have targeted Liverpool this season, hitting the channels on the break will be of high importance.
If Liverpool’s full backs are to bomb on as they constantly do in matches, it frees up space for City to exploit, and as shown by goals against Aston Villa and Atalanta, if they are to be given space on the break, the quick, dynamic link up play can be devastating.
Sergio Aguero comes into the game in fine form, and the clinical Argentine will look to target Virgil van Dijk’s centre half partner at the back. Joel Matip will be a huge miss through injury, and Liverpool looked less assured at the back with Dejan Lovren in centre half against Spurs, again showing their susceptibility to the attacking pace.
With Lovren expected to slot in on the right side of the pairing, it further reinforces the importance of attacking down the left flank, particularly with Sterling’s quick movement. It’s definitely an area Liverpool can be exposed in, how Liverpool guard against this threat will be key, and if they are to try pushing high and on the front foot, it could lead to some space in behind.
The midfield battle
One of the most interesting tactical battles on the pitch on Sunday will be that of Kevin de Bruyne up against Fabinho. Fabinho has been impressive in helping Liverpool control the big encounters against Spurs and Chelsea, and his commanding presence in front of the back four allows the likes of Georginio Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson to push higher and try impact the game in attacking areas.
Interestingly, the Brazilian didn’t start against City at the Etihad last season in defeat, and his introduction this time out could go a long way to deciding the game, and could be tasked with keeping Belgian midfielder De Bruyne quiet.
With nine assists this season, De Bruyne’s ability to pick such a wide array of passes, particularly on the counter attack, could be key to utilising the pace of Sterling and Aguero on the break. And with Fabinho sitting deeper, De Bruyne may take up a deeper role to ensure he is away from the Brazilian and subsequently influence the game more.
Bernardo Silva is often employed in a more defensive role in these encounters by Pep Guardiola, and the Portuguese midfielder’s energy and tenacity shines through, and often covers more ground in these games than anyone in the City midfield. With Fernandinho expected to continue at centre back and David Silva sidelined, his role will be of increased importance alongside Ilkay Gundogan.
Interestingly, Bernardo was booked in both encounters last season, whilst in the two games he made four and three tackles last season, much higher than his average of 1.4 this season, so there will be scope in these markets on the Portuguese midfielder. Currently priced at 15/8 (SkyBet) to make 3+ tackles, if he is to be employed in the same role, this will represent excellent value.
The betting angles
As alluded to earlier, the deeper positioning of Bernardo Silva, and his differing role in the bigger games that Guardiola utilises him with, means that there is appeal in the booking markets.
Referee Michael Oliver has dished out 32 yellow cards in nine Premier League games, whilst City have shown their ill-discipline this season, particularly through the idea of tactical fouls. Priced at 5/1 (BetVictor), Bernardo Silva to be booked represents value, especially in what could be a tight, tense encounter.
Tapping into the goalscoring markets, the missing Matip, plus Liverpool’s defensive worries in the right back area mentioned earlier mean that Sterling appeals as a goalscoring option. His pace up against Lovren will be key, whilst Alexander-Arnold’s tendency to push high should leave him with plenty of space.
Priced at 2/1 (Betfred), the Englishman is certainly worth a play in a game that should be well suited to his attacking ability.