http://www.digitaljournal.com/sports/tactical-preview-manchester-city-liverpool/article/450001

Tactical Preview: Manchester City - Liverpool

Posted Nov 20, 2015 by Tyrrell Meertins
Liverpool’s trip to the Etihad Stadium showcases the champions and runners up of the 2013/2014 campaign. Where City improved their core squad that triumphed two seasons ago, Jurgen Klopp is trying to move Liverpool past a difficult transitional period.
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini is pictured during the English League Cup semi-final secon...
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini is pictured during the English League Cup semi-final second leg football match at the Boleyn Ground, Upton Park, in London on January 21, 2014
Glyn Kirk, AFP
Interestingly, the two clubs were involved in key transfers over the summer with James Milner moving to Anfield, and Raheem Sterling becoming the most expensive English player ever following his move to City. Essentially, both men left their clubs for dissimilar reasons: the former wanted consistent first team football with Euro 2016 commencing this summer, whereas Sterling’s silverware aspirations didn’t meet Liverpool’s current situation.
Perhaps former Liverpool manager, Brendan Rodgers, may have fielded a three-man defence against City, here, but Jurgen Klopp seems keen on a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-2-1, and will likely persist with a four-man back-line. Milner should return in to midfield alongside Emre Can and Lucas Leiva in what will be a combative zone.
Manuel Pellegrini’s pragmatism has been one of they key factors to City’s success this season, and the physical trio of Yaya Toure, Fernandinho and Fernando have been fairly reliable. However, the possible return of David Silva, if fully fit, would drop Toure alongside Fernandinho in a 4-2-3-1.
Nevertheless, considering the current form of the City midfield trio, Pellegrini may feel assured to ease Silva back into the XI. The system has been highly effective with Fernandinho in great form, whereas Toure’s defensive responsibilities decrease, enabling the Ivorian to scamper around the opposition’s box.
Neither Can, nor Milner offers a reliable goal threat from midfield, but the latter’s crossing offers Christian Benteke service upfront. Pressing in midfield could trouble City — it’s flustered Pellegrini’s men in Europe over the years — as Liverpool’s best performances this season have been reactive: the midfield trio excel in midfield scraps opposed to dictating matches against inferior opposition.
Coincidentally, both sides will be welcoming first choice strikers back into the line up as Sergio Aguero and Daniel Sturridge are reportedly match-fit. Sturridge’s pace, trickery, and ability to work the channels could force City’s proactive centre-backs into unnecessary fouls, but he’s likely to appear off the bench.
Wilfried Bony’s early departure at Villa Park two weeks ago, leaves Pellegrini with Aguero as his sole senior striker available. This could lead to Kevin De Bruyne or Raheem Sterling starting upfront — the former drops deep into midfield but offers a goal threat, whereas the latter’s pace is a threat.
City’s attacking midfielders inevitably depend on the fitness of Silva and Aguero. Nathaniel Clyne and Alberto Moreno struggled against Crystal Palace’s direct wingers in the Reds’ recent loss, which may tempt Pellegrini to field Sterling and Jesus Navas on the flanks. The latter combined superbly with Bacary Sagna at Villa Park, creating several chances from the right flank.
Liverpool’s issue in the final third stems from a lack of natural creativity in the squad, which is why a 4-2-3-1 shouldn’t be ruled out. Jordon Ibe was Liverpool’s most potent attacker against Palace, and if selected, the youngster could exploit Aleksandar Kolarov’s adventurous positioning.
Likewise, Roberto Firmino and Coutinho were excellent in a goalless draw at Arsenal earlier in the year, showcasing the former’s direct threat, and the latter’s preferred range of passing in deeper areas. City’s defending has been fairly mediocre without Vincent Kompany, and though Nicolas Otamendi and Eliaquim Mangala will prefer a physical battle, Benteke’s all-round game could expose a proactive centre-back partnership that is prone to errors.
Elsewhere, Mamadou Sakho’s long-term injury forces Klopp into a Martin Skrtel and Dejan Lovren partnership, with the latter experiencing poor form since his move from Southampton. Though City’s issues coping with collective pressing is evident, Liverpool’s shaky back-line could succumb to the league leaders’ fluid attack.
However, Liverpool’s issues creating chances from open play should see Klopp adopt a reactive approach, to limit counters, and the possibility of the full-backs being isolated against City’s clever wide players. An early City goal would be interesting as Liverpool would be forced to push forward, but regardless, goals are expected at the Etihad.
But if Liverpool can replicate a similar performance witnessed at the Emirates this season, we could see an intriguing tactical battle.