The start of the new season is officially upon us, with Manchester City and Liverpool gearing up to battle it out for the Community Shield. While the debate will continue on about how much this game actually matters, coming out victorious is a very nice boost going into the treacherous season ahead.
City and Liverpool have had very contrasting pre-seasons as we head into this fixture. City’s tour of Asia saw them victorious in all but one of their games, losing to Wolves on penalties. Liverpool won their first two matches before dropping three in a row to Borussia Dortmund, Sevilla, and Napoli, but ending with a 3-1 victory against Lyon.
Both sides are still without key players due to international tournaments over the summer. Mohammad Salah, Naby Keita, Roberto Firmino, and Alisson Becker returned to training this week and featured against Lyon on Wednesday, but they are still without Sadio Mane. Manchester City have welcomed the return of strikers Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus, as well as Nicolas Otamendi, Ederson, and Riyad Mahrez, who only took two weeks off after his success in the African Cup of Nations! Fernandinho, who returned to Manchester on Saturday morning, and Benjamin Mendy are still missing though, both of whom could play a big part in the season to come.
Probable Opposition Formation and Lineup
Given the players currently available for selection for Jurgen Klopp, City can expect Liverpool to continue in their 4-3-3 formation. Alisson should start in goal, with what will probably be their go to back line of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil Van Dijk, Joel Matip, and Andrew Robertson all fit and ready to start. Going forward, it is a bit more difficult to guess. The return of Firmino and Salah gives Klopp a lot more options with how to deploy his attack and midfield, with the two playing 30 and 45 minutes respectively. Most likely, Liverpool will begin with Fabinho at the base of the midfield, and the duo of Jordan Henderson and Naby Keita being given the nod just ahead. In attack, we will probably see Salah, Firmino, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain spearhead the team.
Strengths and Tactics
Jurgen Klopp has come about as close as you can get to mastering the art of ‘Gegengressing’. A tactic commonly used in the 1980s, and which is utilised by many different managers in different forms, the basic ideology behind the tactic is to win the ball back as fast as possible after losing it. Klopp uses a very traditional style, where players are instructed to swarm the man on the ball as soon the opposition receive it, with the idea that the player in possession will not be able to find the open men left behind by the pressers because of the intense pressure being applied. Liverpool often use this tactic on the fullbacks. The front three will press the midfield and centre-backs into passing it wide to the fullbacks, who Liverpool’s players will then corner and force them into kicking long, often resulting in possession being regained quickly.
In recent matches between the two sides, it has been Vincent Kompany that has been targeted as the weak link in City’s possession in buildup. Depending on the phase of each game, we have seen Kompany being put under this pressure, but in other matches where Liverpool have sat deeper, the target has been the same, with Klopp believing Kompany has been the weakest player in terms of dictating play. The question that now arises is who will Liverpool decide to test on Sunday? There could be multiple answers to this question; John Stones has a point to prove this season, after ending the last campaign in a bit of a slump. Alternatively, Angelino could be given a warm welcome by the Reds, after looking shaky throughout pre-season.
Say what you want on Twitter about Liverpool, but plain and simple there are not a lot of glaring weaknesses to this Liverpool side. City will have to work hard to not sacrifice any easy chances, and when Pep Guardiola’s men get one of their own, it must be taken.
Using Gegenpressing can be risky against top sides and this is where City must take advantage should Klopp opt for this high press. Pressure-resistant players are able to play through the first line of press, which can leave the opposition at a numerical disadvantage further down the pitch. With City’s quick thinking and very technical midfield, this could be taken advantage of.
Whoever is given the nod up top will most likely shadow Van Dijk’s central partner, as we have seen Aguero do many times. Robertson and Alexander-Arnold are two of the most effective attacking fullbacks, and while they are very good at tracking back, space is still left that can be exploited. The wingers will be responsible for keeping these two honest; making sure they are not getting forward as often as usual, making Liverpool less dangerous, while also punishing them on the counter when they do get forward.
The Xtra View
Everything considered, Manchester City should consider themselves favourites for this match. Fitness levels and pre-season form favour the Premier League and FA Cup winners, and while fans and writers will always play down the significance of the Community Shield, it will without a doubt represent a major mental boost over our main rivals for the title this year.
Play our cards right, and I expect a 3-1 win for City. You can never bet on Liverpool not scoring, but with Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, and Raheem Sterling all looking to be hitting top form coming into this match, our attack should prove too much for Liverpool.
Our partners at FansBet have some match specials ahead of Sunday’s curtain raiser!
Manchester City to win to nil – 47/20
Manchester City to win and over 2.5 goals – 17/10
Exact match score: 1-0, 2-0, 3-0 – 15/4
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