Liverpool have a secret formula to frustrate Man City's enviable firepower

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The Reds have seen their defensive frailties highlighted more than most, but they have found a way of containing a fellow Premier League title hopeful

Fear not, the international break is almost over and Premier League action will return with a bang on Saturday lunchtime.

For those who have struggled to get excited about watching Liechtenstein and Gibraltar in World Cup qualifying, the English top-flight resumes with a heavyweight encounter to whet the appetite.

The Etihad Stadium will provide the backdrop as Manchester City play host to Liverpool, with two title hopefuls seeking to put down an early marker regarding their claims to the ultimate crown.

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There has been little to split the two sides thus far – in terms of points, at least.

City have rather stumbled their way to seven from three games, while Liverpool have offered far more excitement and cause for optimism on their way to collecting the same haul.

It is, in many ways, a case of the same old story for both Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp – with the former still searching for that spark in England and the latter seeking the right balance between defence and attack in his ‘heavy metal’ brand of entertainment.

Man City v Liverpool Sept 2017

The latest meeting between two of the finest coaching minds in the business could offer an indication as the direction both will be heading from this point, although the fourth game of any season cannot be considered a measuring stick by which to judge overall credentials.

For Liverpool, their discussions while heading down the M62 will be dominated by a desire to take something from the game and move onto the next.

A point at the Etihad would be no bad thing for them, and would serve to heighten a sense of frustration for the hosts – with Everton having already returned to Merseyside with a share of the spoils from Manchester this season.

Recent history dictates that the Reds will leave with something to show for their efforts, with a formula found which allows them to contain City – to a degree - and give themselves every chance of claiming tangible reward.

At Anfield, Liverpool have dominated throughout the Premier League era, with just one defeat suffered way back in 2003.

Things have not always been as straightforward on the road, but the last few years have seen the Reds become a serious thorn in the side of a City team which continues to invest heavily in creative and goalscoring talent.

Jurgen Klopp Liverpool Manchester City perfect

The Blues have picked up just one win in their last eight meetings with Liverpool – a 3-1 success on home soil in August 2014.

Even that contest, though, saw City follow an all-too-familiar trend when it comes to breaking down stubborn opposition.

Their three goals that day came from just nine efforts on goal – an impressive conversion rate, but also their lowest shot return at the Etihad for the entire campaign and the only time they failed to break into double figures.

It was a similar story in 2015-16, as City mustered a season-low 11 attempts in a 4-1 defeat – with Klopp stating after that game: “It feels perfect. The game was not perfect but it was very good. City couldn't start like they want but that is important for us. We played with big passion and that's the most important thing for us.”

The 2016-17 campaign then brought 13 efforts in a 1-1 draw – with only a goalless stalemate with Stoke (12) seeing them fare worse.

As previously mentioned, Liverpool have also held something of an Indian sign over City at Anfield, and the visitors’ shooting figures dip even lower when they make the short journey to a north west rival.

In 2014-15 City mustered eight shots, just four a year later and only nine last season.

Manchester City v Liverpool shots 14-17

It does, of course, only take one goal to pick up maximum points and that breakthrough could come from a solitary effort which troubles the target, but victories tend to be built on pressure and a collective knocking on the door which eventually forces an opening.

City, with their enviable array of firepower, know as much and have already endured their struggles this term when it comes to putting the ball in the back of the net.

If they are to continue squandering chances, then they need to make more and more of them.

That could prove to be a problem against Liverpool – who appear to have their number with or without the defensive additions which continue to be called for on the back of a transfer window which delivered a left-back in Andy Robertson, but no centre-half reinforcements.

Virgil van Dijk was mooted by many as the answer to that particular poser and it could easily be argued that his presence would make Liverpool even stronger and better equipped to keep opponents at bay.

The Dutchman is, however, still on the books at Southampton and Klopp will be eager for his side to show on Saturday that they are fine as they are and that City can continue to be blunted regardless of the personnel on show.

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