I morgon är det seriefinal. Liverpool mot Manchester City på Anfield. Jag tror vi alla sett fram emot den här matchen ända sedan spelschemat släpptes. Äntligen är det dags. Richard Burns(@RichardTheBurns) från bl.a. Blue Moon podcast berättar här om hur statusen på våra motståndare är:
1. Manchester City has started this season with eight wins, one draw and two losses, what are your thoughts about the start of the season?
It’s not been ideal. At their best, City are still unplayable but it’s clear that something is inhibiting them being at their best right now. The draw with Tottenham was a bit different; City were fantastic in that game. Their attacking play was as good as almost anything they’ve played under Guardiola and I’ll be honest, watching that game I was nearly convinced we were on our way to a third straight Premier League title. However, we have away two pretty soft goals and failed to take enough chances, so we had to settle for a point. Defeats at Norwich and then at home to Wolves were both big shocks but in their own way, both deserved. In the last two seasons we’ve remained unbeaten well into the winter months – to have suffered two defeats already is uncharacteristic. It’s also very unhelpful given Liverpool’s form – it’s hard to see when and where Klopp’s men will lose a league game and, though it’s early in the season, City really can’t afford to lose any more ground. So, in short, the start has been a little short of expectations and a nightmare compared to Liverpool’s.
2. Has Guardiola changed anything in the way you play this season?
Perhaps not in the way he wanted. With the signing of Cancelo and Mendy’s return to fitness (so far). I wonder whether Guardiola was looking at moving to a back three more often. Injuries have largely curtailed that idea – an unstable defensive rotation means that messing about with tactics is not a great idea. We now have a clear Plan B for when we are struggling to break teams down; Basically the plan is get the ball out wide, send it in into the box and wait for the second ball. It doesn’t work well very often but it did provide the basis of the recent win over Southampton.
3. You signed a few new players during the summer, how have they been so far?
Rodri was the clear headline signing. He was fantastic up until his injury. It would be fair to say there’s still some adaptation required for the Premier League but given how well he has settled in, it’s actually very encouraging to think about how good he’ll be once he knows the league a lot better. He’s a proper Guardiola midfielder – great vision and composure and a fantastic passer of the ball. I think he’s going to be a huge part of this team for years. Cancelo is still waiting for game time. He didn’t look great at left back against Wolves but in his natural position at right back he has been more promising. He has a difficult job in dislodging the long established Kyle Walker, but he’s got more chance than Danilo, who was the previous incumbent of the “back up right back” role. Angelino looks OK at left back, certainly going forward, but he’ll never be more than a squad player.
4. Laporte got injured earlier this season, how much has that affected the team? What is your best defensive lineup without him?
His injury has been a huge blow. I’d argue that, alongside Ederson, Laporte is the worst injury City could suffer. If the attacking players get injured there are always other creative players or other goalscorers to step in and that allows Pep the tactical flexibility to cover their absences. But there is no replacement for Laporte. He is our only left-footed centre back which has been invaluable. Immediately, the team is unbalanced without him. He’s arguably the best defender in the league – though I’m sure your readers will scoff at the sugestion that he is better than Virgil Van Dijk. Hopefully, we can agree that they are the two best defenders in the league, each suited perfectly to their respective teams. Personally I think our best defensive lineup without him has John Stones and Fernandinho at the centre. Stones has suffered during his own injury – I think some people have forgotten how good he is. He is always part of our fully-fit defence now Kompany is no longer around. Otamendi has regressed back to the defender we signed ; If he plays, you can expect to catch him out with your quick attack and he will start diving in. He has to be on the bench.
5. Who has been your best player so far this season? Are there any disappointments?
Raheem Sterling has been the best, I think. His goalscoring record is phenomenal and he is a leader on the pitch now. Whenever the chips are down, he steps up. His head doesn’t drop anymore – mistakes used to ruin his game but now he just bounces straight back. He is a fantastic role model and I am delighted to see him now amongst the very best players in the world. As disappointments go, the aforementioned Nicolas Otamendi has really struggled this season. He has made a lot of mistakes by going to ground early – that was costly in our defeat to Wolves. Bernardo Silva is struggling to match last season’s incredible levels, but I don’t think anybody is concerned yet.
6. What kind of game do you expect at Anfield on sunday? How do you think you will line up?
The biggest prediction I’ll make is that Gabriel Jesus will get the starting berth over Sergio Agüero. The Brazilian has had a great start to the season. His hold up and link up play has been excellent and really valuable to the team. He looks confident and I think that hold up play will be really valuable as City look to nullify Liverpool’s prospects on the break. I expect Stones and Fernandinho to start at the back which means Ilkay Gündogan will be in a holding midfield role. Sterling will start, as will De Bruyne. After that, take your pick from David Silva Bernardo Silva and Riyad Mahrez. As for the type of game – I think City will be forced to follow the same tactics they employed well at Anfield last year; They will press less than normal then use their possession game to try and take the edge off Liverpool. With our injury crisis, our apparent curse at Anfield and the fact that Liverpool are an exceptional team, this is one game that I do not feel confident about.