The Reds’ German tactician has had the most success against the Citizens’ Spanish wizard and will be out to work his magic again.
Liverpool have become a huge attacking force in the Premier League, only second to Manchester City in the number the goals scored. Admittedly, the Citizens are in a league of their own after opening up a 16-point lead at the top. Little surprise than that if you compare these two teams on paper, any betting man would put their money on City to beat Liverpool hands down when these two teams meet in the UEFA Champions League
But Jurgen Klopp has proved his doubters wrong as City were beaten 4-3 at Anfield in the Premier League. Although they let in two late goals and risked a meltdown, Liverpool have since recruited Virgil van Dijk and have tightened up a lot more at the back.
Fast-forward to the Champions League quarterfinals draw, and the Reds are all set to lock horns against the mighty blue side of Manchester. It will be a battle of Gegenpress Vs Tiki-Taka yet again. The teams that rely heavily on the art of counter-pressing are raring to go against each other again and this can only mean one thing, a flurry of goals and a mouth-watering clash for the neutrals.
There is something that’s very contrasting about Klopp and Pep Guardiola’s counter-pressing ideologies. It is how they come out to counter-attack. Guardiola, as a preacher of the Tiki-Taka, makes it a point to keep the ball on the ground and move it around, but Klopp is not afraid of asking his players to hit the ball long to begin a counter-attack. The difference between the two is immense and the winner of this duel between two of the game’s finest modern managers will go a long way to determining the eventual winner of this tie.
Jurgen Klopp managed to beat the Blues at their own den this season
In the 4-3 match between Liverpool and City at Anfield earlier this season, the first goal came out of a long-kick that bypassed the City midfield and ended with Roberto Firmino and Nicolas Otamendi battling it out in the air after which the second ball was won by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who dribbled forward and unleashed a shot which went past a poorly positioned Ederson. The key to this goal was to put the ball over City’s powerful midfield which completely nullified them. With Fernandinho out of the picture for City, Liverpool made it a 4 Vs 4 counter-attack and it resulted in them going 1-0 up in the 9th minute.
Liverpool also had their defensive shape on point for the majority of the first half in that game. They converted to a 4-5-1 when they were defending inside their own half. This meant that they could effectively track and mark the players close to each other’s zones. With such great discipline, it was hard for the City midfield who were now in Liverpool’s half to find space in between the lines. There was a big flaw in this system in that there was always going to be a spare man on the other flank. This was City’s door to get back into the game and they did it right.
Liverpool are good at being deceptive. City had dominated possession in the first half and started the second with more than 65% possession, but the Reds were only tiring them out with their 5-man midfield blocking the passing lanes. The Reds’ pressure meant that City now resorted to playing long balls and just like the first goal, Liverpool won the second ball from the long kick upfield and Firmino chipped the ball into the net with exquisite technique. The hidden pressure is quite dangerous as the first two goals showed because Liverpool are a team that can move from defence to attack in the space of seconds.
The fact that Liverpool aren’t afraid to play long balls makes them all the more potent. You put any defender against the likes of Firmino, Sadio Mane, or Mohamed Salah, the majority of the time, these attackers will get the better of the defenders and that has been Liverpool’s biggest gameplan against most of the sides. With Van Dijk, who is a great passer of the ball, in the team, Liverpool can spray balls down the wings and cause a lot of problems to City’s full-backs.
Klopp also holds the upper hand in the head-to-head against Guardiola. In the 12 games that they have squared up against each other, Klopp has won six times and no opposing manager has a better record against the Spaniard. If you could pick anyone to beat Pep, it would definitely be Klopp. The German has beaten Pep twice with Liverpool and come the first leg of this interesting Champions League clash, it has all the potential to go down as one of best games of the season.
The signs are all crystal clear in front of both the managers. Both know what’s ahead of them. With both sides aiming for European glory, it’ll be a game like none other and if there was and is an able contender to stop City’s juggernaut, there isn’t a better choice than the man who hails from Stuttgart, Jurgen Norbert Klopp.