A title decider as early as November, with only 11 games played?
It’s not unusual for Liverpool vs Manchester City clash to be billed as one. In Spain’s LaLiga, during the heydays of Barcelona and Real Madrid, the El Clasico showdowns would ultimately decide the course of the title race, as both of them were expected to win all their other matches. This spoke for the chasm of quality between the top two teams and the rest of the league. So it was last season when there was a difference of 25 points between second-placed Liverpool and third-placed Chelsea.
If Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City win, they will close down the five point gap to two, while if Liverpool win, they further consolidate their position at the top with eight points heading into a congested fixture list that includes them battling logistics and two teams across continents (in the Club World Cup and League Cup).
We look at some of the talking points:
Power vs Perfection
The opening passages of Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola’s biographies give more than enough insight as to the stark difference of the two managers who will be standing next to each other in their respective technical area.
Growing up in Glatten, the Black Forest region of Germany, Klopp was attuned to nature early on in his life. “Armed with axes and faith” according to biographer Raphael Honigstein, Jurgen Klopp’s ancestors not only knew how to be in awe of it but to rolls their sleeves up and overcome it.
An avid admirer of transcendentalists and a staunch believer in God, Klopp’s motto is Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “nature rewards courage,” and “God will not have his work manifested by cowards.”
This philosophy is the backbone of a Liverpool team has been branded by a hustle unseen in the Premier League since the glory days of Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United.
Martí Perarnau’s opens Pep Confidential with Pep Guardiola making former chess Grandmaster Garry Kasparov scowl with a tactical move. Once he retires from football, we should not all be surprised if the Manchester City manager takes up clockmaking.
At Anfield, Guardiola will look to employ a tactic that undid Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund in the latter period of the Spaniard’s stint as the manager of Bayern Munich. A long ball game directed at Robert Lewandowski took Dortmund's high pressing front line and midfield out of the equation and creating havoc in their backline. Guardiola will look to cast former Liverpool player Raheem Sterling, a much-despised figure at Anfield due to his acrimonious exit to Manchester City, in the role of the supervillain.
Sterling, since being chided by Brendan Rodgers in the faux pas reveal-all documentary, has gone onto become a player with future Ballon D’or credentials, and easily one of the most complete forwards in the game: with exception core strength, ability to win the second ball on the bounce, and run in behind defences, he’s the perfect spoiler of happy endings.
He will, however, has to contend with the best defender in the world game at this moment of time: Virgil van Dijk.
As Sterling’s fleet-footedness belies his strength, Van Dijk’s power belies his sheer acceleration. Recording the two fastest sprints by a defender in the Champions League last season, the Dutchman has a gear-shift that very few defenders have, making him the ideal man-marker for Sterling.
Manchester United, who caused Liverpool to drop their first points this season took to exploiting the gaps between the Klopp’s wingbacks and his centerback. Ole Gunnar Solksjaer made Liverpool look uncomfortable while being hit on the fast break.
A carefully played first-time through ball down the channel hurts Liverpool more often than not and Pep Guardiola, the perfectionist that he is, would have clearly noticed.
For all of Liverpool’s churning power, they have been suspect to conceding avoidable goals. The goal for Genk in midweek came with their first shot. Injuries to Joel Matip and Joe Gomez’s lack of match sharpness has left Dejan Lovren to resume the role of the scapegoat when anything goes wrong. And if the Croatian plays tonight, he cannot afford a split second of a lapse in concentration, a trait that he has been guilty of in the past despite all his apparent all-round abilities.
Disruption as dogma
Tonight might be Liverpool’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s night. The player who brings the added unpredictability of a punt from outside the box; one who thrives on getting loose balls played to his feet at the edge of the area. The individual highlight of his career so far has been that thunderous shot vs Manchester City in the Champions League, and he’d be looking to carry on since an injury that kept him out for the worst part of a year.
There’s nothing that a spanner enjoys more than to be hefted into the spinning, whirring cogs of someone’s grand design. Klopp has been the figurative spanner for most of his professional career as a manager for most of his rivals. You may even say that this act of anarchy brings balance to the otherwise mundane perspective of a universal clockwork, the chaos of spinning nebulas and crashing black holes to compensate for all the orderly orbits.
To make Guardiola’s gameplan blow up on his face, Klopp will rouse his hellhounds to press as if their legacies depended on it from the first whistle. He and his charges will know that the first tackle, the first interception, the first goal could get the roar of Anfield behind them. And that is a sort of power you can never account on any balance book.
Updated Date: Nov 10, 2019 13:36:16 IST