Jurgen Klopp has new, improved attacking aces up his sleeve to punish Pep

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The Reds' swiftness, variation and intelligence in attack will pose several hard-to-answer questions for the City boss at the Etihad this weekend

Eight months ago at City Football Academy’s top table, Pep Guardiola floated between appreciation and apprehension as he analysed Liverpool’s cannonry ahead of their New Year’s Eve meeting at Anfield.

“It is so aggressive,” he noted, before adding a sort of self warning that “in three or four seconds they are attacking. When you play a Jurgen Klopp team, the tactics are so important. Maybe he is the best manager in the world at creating teams who attack the back four with so many players, from almost anywhere on the pitch.”

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GFX Guardiola Klopp

Press fast forward and the Spaniard’s preparation for Manchester City hosting the Merseysiders in the early kick off on Saturday will be all the more complex. The opposition have further augmented their core strength since the last time the sides scrimmaged in March, and despite over £158 million being spent on solidifying the rearguard at the Etihad, City’s defence still screams vulnerable in a blockbuster meeting such as this.

Having failed to win either of his first two Premier League tests against Liverpool - losing 1-0 at Anfield before a 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture - Guardiola will discern that the difficulty level in countering their kaleidoscopic approach has only increased.

Mohamed Salah Liverpool

The Reds have included a rapid Mohamed Salah, who has recorded the most shots on target in the division this season, to their already potent frontline.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, perched at the top of the completed dribbles standings, has traded Arsenal for Anfield. One of the foremost strikers in the top-flight and City old-boy Daniel Sturridge has to be content with a place on the bench alongside Dominic Solanke, the standout star of the Under-20 World Cup.

Liverpool are in a position where Philippe Coutinho - their “gold dust” and chief orchestrator of the team’s play - has to earn a starting spot again after maneuvering for a failed switch to Barcelona.

Sadio Mane, the league’s joint-top scorer, and Roberto Firmino, who is second for combined goals and assists, have both made a quick dart to establish themselves as the premier players in England this season.

Liverpool celebrate vs Watford

It is not just Liverpool’s predominantly attack-minded talent that will concern Guardiola. Emre Can is in a sweet spell of form as Juventus continue to understandably circle around him, while Gini Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson have got into their stride after slow starts.

One of the points the City boss picked up on when detailing Liverpool’s offensive might was that “they attack wide sometimes, but they especially like to attack from inside, through the middle.”

Klopp’s men are no longer as reliant on their creation in central areas given the presence of Mane and Salah on the flanks as well as the forward-thinking of full-backs Andy Robertson, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Alberto Moreno.

Joe Gomez, more defensively inclined, also showed his willingness to advance Liverpool’s attacking onus against Arsenal with a superb cross from the right for Firmino to head in.

HD Sadio Mane

Several of the club’s goals in all competitions this term have actually been engineered from wider spots: Mane’s opener against Watford came via the left after fine interplay with Moreno and Can, James Milner’s deflected effort at Hoffenheim also arrived from that side - to name just two that fit with the effort highlighted above against the Gunners.

Liverpool have scored on the counter, they’ve used overlapping runs to great effect, the centre-backs have gone for the long pass over the top to feed the speed of Mane and Salah, they’ve profited at the far post, they’ve chipped, they’ve cut in…

Klopp, who has never suffered defeat in the league against City, has fortified his full-throttle blueprint with greater variation, swiftness and fluidity.

Of course, Liverpool too will have to provide answers to the artillery of their hosts and guard against their own shortcomings at the back.

HD Jurgen Klopp main

But these match-ups tend to show “the club’s best face” to steal Klopp parlance, and under him, the Reds have lost just one of their 22 league matches against a team that finished in the top seven of the competition last season. In this sequence, they are unbeaten away from home.

Guardiola knows what to do to combat this authoritative side of Liverpool. “You have to reach a certain level," he explained. "They have a specific way to attack you and you have to be in control.”

How to implement the above, however, is the conundrum that will prove taxing for City to solve.

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