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Tactical masterclass – How Klopp outclassed Guardiola in Liverpool’s 3-1 rout of Man City

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How Jurgen Klopp outclassed Pep Guardiola in Liverpool’s 3-1 rout at Anfield

The much-anticipated clash between Liverpool and Manchester City at Anfield was expected to be one of the main attractions of Matchweek 12 and in the end, it was Jurgen Klopp’s side that took a giant leap in this season’s title race with a well-deserved 3-1 over the defending champions. 

Liverpool worked their way to a two-goal advantage before the interval, with Fabinho scoring an absolute screamer before Mo Salah headed it in off Andrew Robertson’s cross from the left.

Sadio Mane made it 3-0 in favour of the hosts and although Bernardo Silva pulled one back late in the game, City fell well short of their title rivals. 

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Jurgen Klopp got the better of Pep Guardiola at Anfield on Sunday (Getty Images)

Well, City were hardly at full-strength, with David Silva, Aymeric Laporte and Ederson all notable absentees from the playing eleven. Things could have been so much different had the visitors been awarded a penalty in the build-up that eventually led to Fabinho’s opener, but one does get the feeling that Liverpool were the better side and deserved to come away with three points. 

The result, of course, is expected to have far-reaching consequences on the title race, with Liverpool now opening up an 8-point gap at the top of the table. 

Notwithstanding the fact that there are 26 games still left to be played and that the Premier League can be so unpredictable, Liverpool seem to have an obvious advantage over City at the moment and it is hard to ignore that the title noise at Anfield is now getting louder than before. 

Looking back at how the ninety minutes panned out at Anfield on Sunday, it would be fair to say that the main difference between the two teams was the quality of their finishing.

While Liverpool were really clinical and ruthless with their finishing in front of goal, Man City lacked the clinical edge in their attack and missed numerous gilt-edged chances to come back into the game. 

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The tactical battles between Klopp and Guardiola have evolved into one of the most anticipated managerial battles in Europe (Getty Images)

However, the tactical nous of arguably two of the best managers in Europe added a completely different dimension to the game and it was something for the fans to relish as well. In the end, Guardiola clearly came out second-best, with Klopp outsmarting the Spaniard with his slight tactical tweak that made all the difference. 

The attacking influence of Liverpool’s full-backs, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Robertson, has been well-documented as the key to the smooth functioning of Klopp’s 4-3-3 system and one of the hallmarks of the German’s success in recent times. 

However, that has also become something for the opposition to exploit during transitional phases in the game, with the advanced positioning of the full-backs making the centre-backs prone to facing 1v1 and 2v2 situations. 

Klopp, though, was aware of the kind of havoc someone like Raheem Sterling could potentially cause if Alexander-Arnold committed himself too far forward, and a slight change in tactics from the manager meant that Robertson was the only full-back regularly bursting forward to provide width. 

Much unlike the way Liverpool play their football, the team’s attacking width on the right-hand side of the pitch was largely provided by Jordan Henderson, who set up Mane’s goal in the second half with an excellent cross into the box. 

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Liverpool moved nine points clear of Man City with the 3-1 victory (Getty Images)

As for Man City, they usually play a 2-3-5 formation when in possession, with the full-backs shifting narrow to play as inverted full-backs in front of the centre-backs and the midfielders moving forward as a part of the forward line to provide more attacking threat. 

However, it was a bit different against Liverpool at Anfield, as Guardiola opted for a 4-2-4 formation, with a double pivot of Gundogan and Rodri shielding the back-four.

Surprisingly enough, though, the full-backs didn’t move too narrow or commit too far forward due to the pace of Salah and Mane, and that was one of the main reasons why the slick link-up play and the smooth build-up went missing at times. 

Kevin de Bruyne, who came into the game against Liverpool with 9 assists in the Premier League to his name, largely played as a second striker alongside Sergio Aguero, but with main creative outlet David Silva not in the frame, City didn’t have someone to exploit the half-spaces, run the channels and work tirelessly to break down the defence. 

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Credits: Getty Images

As a result, the likes of Fabinho and Georginio Wijnaldum found life easy when it came to cutting out attacks and closed down the spaces between the full-backs and the centre-backs to disallow De Bruyne enough space to work with.

The Belgian struggled to create too many chances from open play but he did create two golden opportunities from set-pieces, which Sterling and Aguero should have converted. 

As evident from the way Man City went about things, Guardiola’s gameplan was to isolate Liverpool’s centre-backs in 1v1 and 2v2 situations but with Klopp adopting a more disciplined and measured approach with the movement of the full-backs, especially Alexander-Arnold, the Cityzens hardly had the opportunity execute the manager’s instructions on the pitch. 

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Ultimately, Klopp’s tactical masterstroke could have fallen short had Man City managed to capitalise on their chances but in the end, it has to be said that the German prevailed in what has evolved into one of the most anticipated tactical battles in Europe.