Klopp approach could bring out the best & worst in Guardiola's Man City

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HD Pep Guardiola Jurgen Klopp
The Blues have had some recurring problems against defensive-minded teams this season, but Liverpool's visit will offer something completely different

Pep Guardiola's Manchester City could look like a completely different team when Liverpool visit the Etihad Stadium this Saturday.

The Blues will finally be able to cut loose against the Reds, having faced three largely defensive opponents so far this season, but at the same time their new-look defence will face their biggest test to date.

Liverpool 3/1 to beat Man City

City have taken seven points from their opening three games - only Manchester United have a better haul - but there is a sense that the Blues are yet to really get going.

They have faced the second fewest shots this season (21), but they have had difficulty breaking down stubborn opposition.

So far City's forwards have offered mere glimpses of the quality attacking play they are capable of. It was evident for the opening goal at Brighton, when Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva played the perfect passes to allow Sergio Aguero a relatively simple finish. It was a similar story at Bournemouth, when the quick-thinking Gabriel Jesus linked up with Silva to eek out some much-needed space.

Yet it is telling that both of those goals came when the opposition were caught out; Brighton had attempted a rare jaunt up field, only for De Bruyne to recover the ball and break away. At Bournemouth, Jesus found Silva with a quick free-kick as many of the home defenders were looking at the referee.

City were afforded more space in the first half against Everton but some old failings in front of goal came into play, something which is likely to be a recurring theme.


Man City XI

As long as City are faced with massed defences, they will be forced to play a patient passing game.

The stats suggest they can be a little too patient, however; Opta sequence data shows Guardiola's side make 4.64 passes per attack, the highest amount in the league.

And they are down in 15th place when it comes to speed of attack; the data shows City move the ball 1.53 metres per second towards the goal - the same as West Brom.

There are reasons for this, of course. City's three opponents have all sat back for most of the game; Brighton for the entirety, Everton after Kyle Walker's first-half red card, and Bournemouth after their fast-paced opening 15 minutes.

It would make no sense for City to sprint full pelt at a compact block of 11 defenders. 

But at the same time Guardiola will be disappointed at how slowly his side have been moving the ball around, particularly from the back.

No Premier League defender has seen more of the ball than Nicolas Otamendi, who has 319 touches, 268 passes and 239 successful passes, all league highs. Vincent Kompany is fourth on the list of passes/successful passes, and fifth in terms of touches.

Guardiola acknowledges that John Stones is better on the ball, but says he is better at "squeezing" the game from the middle of a three-man defence, while Kompany and Otamendi are better in the duels which occur in the wider positions.

That is true, but too often this season the ball has ended up with Kompany and Otamendi, who do not have the range of passing to open up the opposition. While both men have impressive passing stats on paper (roughly 90% accuracy for both), too often these passes have simply been played into the feet of team-mates positioned just a few yards away.

In City's first two games, three of the five most common passing combinations were between two centre-backs, or a centre-back and Fernandinho. At Bournemouth, it was Kompany to Otamendi, Otamendi to Kompany, and Otamendi to De Bruyne, who had taken up a deeper role, perhaps to bypass Fernandinho.

Indeed, the Brazilian could also be seen as part of the problem; he is fifth for touches, passes and successful passes made by Premier League midfielders, but sources have told Goal that Ilkay Gundogan, when fit, will replace him at the back of midfield in a bid to add an extra dimension to City's game.

Yet while these problems will need to be resolved as the season goes on, they may not be much of a concern on Saturday.


Possible Liverpool XI v City

Firstly, both Walker and Benjamin Mendy will be available for the first time. City struggled to find a suitable left wing-back in the first two games but did look more balanced when Mendy returned at Bournemouth, with Danilo on the other flank.

But the biggest factor will be Liverpool's approach.

The Reds have a good record against City in recent years and their fast-paced, counter-pressing style is destined to cause more problems for the Blues, particularly if Kompany is ruled out through injury.

The Belgian would have been susceptible to being pressed anyway, but City do defend better with him in the side. The Stones-Otamendi pairing has not always worked well, and that will be an extra concern for Guardiola as he contends with how best to deal with Liverpool's forwards both on and off the ball.

Indeed, the Merseysiders have had the most shots in the league so far.

They are the only side to have faced fewer shots than City, too, but while that suggests Guardiola's side will find it difficult to create chances, the key will be how Liverpool attack. While they will certainly provide a stern examination of City's new-look defence, they will leave the kind of spaces that the Blues can exploit.

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Liverpool may well have faced the fewest shots, but they shipped three goals against an adventurous Watford team, before facing an inhibited Crystal Palace side and the abject Arsenal.

The Reds will not face many teams who are willing to take risks and attack them, but that is exactly what they will get from City.

It's all set up to be a pulsating game of football and, perhaps for Guardiola, a welcome break from the norm.