Salah, VAR and attacking line up — Five lessons Man City must learn from Liverpool fixtures – Joe Bray

Since Liverpool inflicted a chastening Champions League demolition job on Manchester City in 2018, the Blues deserve credit for a series of improved performances against their closest rivals.

Pep Guardiola says City and Liverpool have both raised the bar in the Premier League: both in terms of what it takes to win the title, with regular 90-plus points tallies, and also in terms of the sheer quality the sides possess. The 2-2 draw at Anfield earlier this season was one of the highest-quality Premier League games for a long while, and now the rivals prepare for a showdown that will have direct implications for who eventually becomes champion.

City and Liverpool know everything there is to know about each other, although Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp will still see various areas that can be improved upon on Sunday. We’ve looked at the key moments in the last few meetings and picked our four areas for City to learn from:

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Stop Salah

It seems an obvious thing to say, and keeping Mo Salah quiet — especially in a game of this magnitude — is far easier said than done. However, Guardiola will be well aware that Salah has either scored or assisted five of Liverpool’s last seven goals in the league against City, including each of the last four going back to 2019.

In October, Salah raced clear of Joao Cancelo to set up Sadio Mane, before his sensational solo goal later in the match. Both goals were brilliant from the Egyptian, but not helped by Cancelo and then Bernardo diving in and giving him space to accelerate.

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Salah has not been in great form recently, so City can’t afford to give him gifts like they did at Anfield. They have to keep Liverpool’s talisman frustrated.

take your chances

Another blindingly obvious tip that Guardiola or his players won’t need reminding of, but in games with so much riding on them City must be clinical and ruthless. They have missed three penalties in their last eight games, costing them four points. It’s not an exaggeration to say one missed chance like that could be the difference between lifting the Premier League trophy in May or seeing Liverpool finally get that chance in front of their fans.

With six penalties given in the last four games between these sides, it’s a reminder to take chances when they come along and ask questions later. Alisson’s errors in 2021 and Rodri’s incredible block this season are other helpful reminders that nothing comes for granted in these games.

Don’t rely on the referee

City were furious in October when James Milner appeared to commit a number of bookable offenses but escaped a booking, with one incident leaving the Blues frustrated when a fairly clear penalty on Raheem Sterling was waved away.

In the 2019 defeat at Anfield, Trent Alexander-Arnold’s handball at one end wasn’t given, before Fabinho rifled in an opener seconds later. Alexander-Arnold got away with another possible hand-ball later in the match as City suffered their only defeat in their eight clashes since those Champions League defeats.

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It’s not to say City haven’t benefited from decisions themselves, but they will have to make their own luck and will not be wanting to rely on others to get a positive result on Sunday.

trust flair players

Phil Foden has run the show in his last two games at Anfield, while Raheem Sterling has been central to City’s last two wins over Liverpool. It was Sergio Aguero and Leroy Sane in 2019, while Bernardo Silva, Gabriel Jesus, Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne have all put in big individual performances against the Reds recently.

As much as Guardiola will encourage a compact shape and solid defense to combat Liverpool’s counter, he will also be looking to his flair players to show why they are the best in the world. If they don’t do it, the likes of Salah, Sadio Mane and other Liverpool players will.

use the fans

Incredibly, this is the first home meeting with Liverpool with a City crowd since that 2019 win — a victory that ultimately proved crucial in handing City the title. Since then, the 2019/20 home game was delayed and then played behind closed doors, as was the 2020/21 game. Four points from those fixtures is a good return, but the occasion was certainly diluted without a crowd, as the Anfield game this season showed.

City are unbeaten in five Premier League home games against Liverpool since 2015, so it’s up to City to put on a performance that will give a packed crowd reason to get behind them. With another coach welcome planned, City fans are more than capable of being a 12th man and providing an edge in a game of few margins. Just like they did in 2019.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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