We are back to Champions League action and we are facing familiar opposition after knocking out Porto. We are now up against Manchester City and we will be at home for the first leg. Obviously, both sides know each other well so it will be interesting to see how this one plays out. Lallana and Can are the only question marks for this game. Can may be able to go but it will be a game-time decision.
For us I think we go with Karius; Trent A-A, Matip, VVD, Robertson; Milner, take a risk with Can, Alex O-C; Salah, Firmino, Mane. If I were a betting man, I would say that City will do whatever possible to leave Trent stranded by himself with Sane, so Sane can run at him and try to expose him. So I think City will overload their right side so that Sane (who will most likely be as high and as wide as possible on the left) can have as many 1v1 opportunities possible.
That being said, I think it is essential defensively that we place Milner on the same side as Trent. Milner has experience playing right back himself and is an absolute workhorse, so he will have no issues dropping back to help defend. Milner helping out to defend and provide cover means Salah may have to drop deeper as well so that he can take Milner’s place in the defense. It may look a bit like a 5-3-2 defensively, which means we will have better access to the City wingers should they think about playing fast switches, since that five-man back line means we cover more space horizontally. The downside is that Salah is further away from our opponents’ goal. However, we could also just have Can slide over to the right and Firmino can be the one who drops down and plays in the center of the midfield three when in organized defense. Then we have Mane and Salah running at the heart of the City defence in counterattacking situations.
Offensively, I believe it is imperative that we look to combine and overload down our right-hand side. This is admittedly because I fear Sane will run rampant on Trent. So if we overload down the right and lose the ball, we have several players surrounding the City player who won it. All these high numbers of players in close areas obviously means less space for the player with the ball to maneuver. So even if City win the ball, they will have very little space to operate. Although Sane can play in tight areas, obviously his biggest strength is his speed and 1v1 dribbling. He will not be able to use either of those strengths if we have so many Liverpool players surrounding him, and we can do this by attacking and overloading the flank he is on. It should be noted that Salah is a bit better at playing and combining in tight areas compared to Mane so it plays to our strengths as well.
To be honest I think that both teams will score at least one goal. I just hope it is Liverpool that ends up scoring more. I will go 3-1 Liverpool.