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5 Liverpool vs Man City Key Battles

This Sunday’s match between Liverpool and Manchester City is the most important match of the Premier League so far, and a meeting between the division’s two top goalscorers. Here are five battles that might prove crucial in shaping the result.

Steven Gerrard v David Silva

There is a possibility Brendan Rodgers could recall Lucas Leiva against a side so comfortable in possession – but even if the Brazilian does feature, it could be on the right of a diamond, where he played the second half against West Ham last week. Either way, Steven Gerrard will be Liverpool’s deepest midfielder.

Gerrard’s main quality from that role is his excellent long-range passing ability, particularly with his diagonal balls into the channels for Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge. His defensive skills are more questionable – although he’s certainly coped well in recent weeks.

Nevertheless, he’s yet to face a playmaker as elusive as David Silva, who has been in majestic form. Whether starting as the number ten or drifting inside from a wide starting positions, it’s vital Liverpool deny the Spaniard space between the lines. If Manchester City overload the centre, perhaps with Samir Nasri causing Gerrard problems too, Liverpool could be overrun.

Jon Flanagan v Jesus Navas

Forget inverted wingers, playmakers fielded on the flank and attack-minded full-backs better going forward than they are defensively – this will be a proper wide battle. Put simply, it’s a winger who loves beating his man before swinging in a cross, and a full-back who loves a tackle.

Navas has been crucial in City’s attacking this season, adding another dimension to their play after the years of wingerless football under Roberto Mancini. Now, City have someone who can stretch the opposition, offering pace and directness – and his delivery from wide has been to the liking of both Edin Dzeko and his old Sevilla teammate Alvaro Negredo.

Flanagan will stick tight, though, so expect a couple of big tackles from the left-back in the first half. Can Navas recover, and drive his side forward?

Jordan Henderson v Yaya Toure

Henderson has been one of the many success stories from this Liverpool campaign, proving crucial with his energy and incessant forward running, and also being tactically impressive, switching between various different positions as Rodgers has constantly varied his formation.

However, to leave it at that would be underplaying Henderson’s role. The English midfielder has used the ball efficiently in deeper positions, charged forward to provide a goal threat, and provided some clever tricks and flicks on the edge of the opposition box, creating chances for the strikers.

This weekend, he’ll come up against one of the Premier League’s most formidable central midfielders, Yaya Toure. This will be arguably his biggest test of the season, and a real test of his physical and technical capabilities. In all honesty, Henderson isn’t yet ready to compete with Toure in that respect – but he’s arguably more tactically disciplined, and probably boasts more stamina too.

Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge v Vincent Kompany and Martin Demichelis

It remains to be seen whether the SAS will be fielded upfront together, or whether one will play wide in a 4-3-3. If it’s the former, City are in for a real test. Some opponents have started to play three at the back against Suarez and Sturridge, while last weekend West Ham’s full-backs barely advanced because Liverpool’s strikers are so dangerous in the channels. “If teams want to play two versus two against them,” Gerrard said recently, “Then good luck to them.”

Kompany and Demichelis haven’t been the most reliable centre-back duo in the Premier League this season. Kompany has made mistakes high up the pitch, and won’t have the pace to recover if he makes errors against these two strikers.

Demichelis has improved, and isn’t the liability many suggest, but he makes peculiar decisions and isn’t great when battling one-against-one in wide areas, especially when opponents run towards him at speed. It will be an uphill task for City to keep a clean sheet.

Simon Mignolet v Joe Hart

Not a direct battle on the pitch – unless Hart is forced into one of his last-minute forays up the pitch to look for an equaliser – but the battle of the goalkeepers could prove crucial on Sunday.

Put simply, these are two sides that take an incredible number of shots, and score an amazing number of goals. The thought of a tight, cautious game is almost unthinkable, and in those situations goalkeepers become particularly crucial.

While Mignolet looked a little uncomfortable dealing with crosses last week at West Ham, and Hart has looked vulnerable to long-range shots, this game might be about which is better in one-on-one situations. Both generally defend high up the pitch, both sides love playing through-balls, both have pace in behind the opposition defence.

It’s a recipe for strikers racing through on goal, and a couple of big, brave saves win the game – and the title.

Posted in , Premier League, Zonal Marking | 0 comments

April 9th, 2014 by Michael Cox

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