Liverpool host Manchester City at Anfield live on Sky Sports this Sunday – but how do the teams’ current styles and form compare ahead of the blockbuster clash?
England’s top two clubs in recent times claimed the top rungs of the table going into the weekend, while recent title-tussle clashes between the league giants have typically been supercharged showdowns.
To add even greater gravitas, the fixture has also delivered more goals than any other match-up between last season’s top four teams in the Premier League since Pep Guardiola joined Manchester City in 2016.
The table below lists previous meetings in all competitions since 2016/17 and highlights City’s recent dominance – with a 4-1 win in February last season and a 4-0 win in July last year. Liverpool edged a 4-3 thriller in January 2018 but City ran riot with a 5-0 masterclass in September 2017.
Jurgen Klopp has beaten Pep Guardiola eight times – more than any other manager.
What’s the style?
Liverpool typically overload the right flank with Trent Alexander-Arnold – who has been ruled out this weekend with injury – pushing high, the right-sided midfielder edging wider and Mohamed Salah stationed furthest upfield.
Manchester City have also started all six leagues games to date in a 4-3-3 system but have a greater attacking impetus down the left flank.
In addition to leading the table going into the weekend, the two teams also rank top across a raft of metrics. Surprisingly, City’s primary weakness this term has been converting chances – an issue which, if sustained, will add weight to the argument they need a conventional No 9 following their unsuccessful summer pursuit of Harry Kane.
Pep Guardiola’s side ranked fourth in the Premier League with 12 goals going into matchday seven, while their upcoming hosts led the way with 15 scored. Expected goals data emphasises City’s blunt edge in front of goal to date, which is compounded by far fewer attempts hitting the target.
Liverpool pose a considerable threat from dead-ball situations with a league-topping six goals from set-pieces – while only Newcastle have scored more headed goals than either side this term.
As the interactive graph above reveals, both teams lead the way for firing attempts at goal. The shot maps below suggest Liverpool typically fire from a slightly more centralised region – frequently hitting the target from this area inside the box and Salah’s right-hand zone.
As was the case last season, City’s goals have primarily been scored from a cluster of shots taken in and around the six-yard box from customary runners and cut-backs, but the graphic below also highlights a dearth of accurate shots.
In terms of favoured attacking channels, the visualisation below reinforces the styles revealed in the average positions, underlining how Liverpool carry their greatest threat down the right flank, while City match that danger down the left channel – which poses a fascinating conundrum for the managers when the channels clash head-on this Sunday.
Could Liverpool switch to a left-sided focus now right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold has been ruled out?
Despite the lopsided dangers down the flanks, Liverpool’s assists have come from both flanks and central areas in almost equal measure, while City have actually had the greatest joy down the right – which suggests clear-cut opportunities have gone begging from chances conjured from the left.
Liverpool trio Salah (five goals), Diogo Jota and Sadio Mane (both three) top the goal chart for the teams combined. Meanwhile, expected goal data in the interactive chart below highlights how Ferran Torres, Raheem Sterling and Grealish have been most culpable for missing City’s opportunities.
Both sides will look to stifle the opposition’s key creators: Salah poses the greatest threat with Alexander-Arnold out of contention for Liverpool, while Grealish tees up team-mates most frequently for City – creating 16 and 18 chances, respectively.
Who presses hardest?
Both managers demand pressing to utilise their high-line styles and defend the counter-attack. Interestingly, advanced metrics suggest both teams still possess defensive lines that average at around 44m from their own goal, but Manchester United have usurped both clubs this term.
Liverpool typically lead the way for high turnovers but have been displaced by Burnley this season. Regardless, the Reds are marginally more aggressive than City in the attacking and middle thirds and will look to disrupt the visitors’ customary passing progression from deep by overturning possession.
The graphic below reveals how both teams gather loose balls far more frequently down their respective favoured attacking channels: Liverpool’s right and City’s left. This suggests an effective tactic on Sunday could be to progress from deep on the opposite channel, before switching flanks with diagonals to expose rampaging full-backs.
Alexander-Arnold has swept up more loose balls than any other player from either team, while Rodri almost matches the full-back’s returns in that regard for City. Grealish ranks top for seizing turnovers in the final third, while Cancelo is most effective at engaging and winning 50/50 duels.
So this might come as no surprise: City and Liverpool top the charts for passes completed and possession again this season. But, breaking this down further, we can see City record far more undisrupted passing sequences in their typically slower build-up style.
Further analysis reveals City appear to be closing the gap with Jurgen Klopp’s side for firing in crosses this season – with both sides almost evenly matched for passes into the box from wide channels.
The passing networks below provide even more insight on the average positions and flank-attack visualisations above and reveal Liverpool’s triangular combinations down the right, with Fabinho typically looking to offload to that flank.
Meanwhile, like Liverpool, City protect their high line with net-shaped combinations, which are also strikingly similar to their upcoming hosts but appear marginally more symmetrical – despite the concentration of exchanges occurring down the left.
Ruben Dias and Cancelo register the most passes, with the former frequently controlling possession from deep, with Liverpool’s centre-backs also producing team-topping numbers.
The Reds will undoubtedly miss Alexander-Arnold, who is by far the greatest threat for firing passes into the opposition box – while Ilkay Gundogan and Cancelo lead the way for City.
City go into this weekend’s blockbuster clash with just one goal conceded from six league games – a staggering achievement. On paper, Liverpool’s defence ranks third with four goals shipped – having leaked three of those during the 3-3 thriller with Brentford last week.
The graphic below reveals all defensive actions performed by each team’s back four this season and indicates City’s rearguard frequently press higher upfield than Liverpool’s back line – to prevent counters and support the defensive midfielder.
Klopp recognised how Brentford found a glitch in the Reds’ system last week by overloading Liverpool’s right flank to exploit defensive weaknesses born from their attacking thrust down that channel – while also prompting defenders to shuffle from zonal territories.
Indeed, the visualisation below reveals Liverpool’s opponents have targeted this channel, with nearly half of all attacks coming down this third of the pitch. Unsurprisingly, City’s opponents have deployed exactly the same approach to exploit their advanced left channel.
In terms of locating the sources of danger and any potential soft spots for both teams, the maps below plot every pass leading to a shot conceded.
Liverpool tend to cede crosses down their right flank and from deep in their left-of-centre midfield area – with conceded goals all coming from shots taken around the six-yard box. Meanwhile, City have faced a league-low 36 shots – nearly half as many as the Reds – but appear more penetrable from central passes lofted into their box.
The hard yards
Both teams have become synonymous with physical exertions under their current managers but have dropped off this term. Arguably, their high lines enable a more compressed area to work in and therefore less ground to cover. City ranked 14th for distance covered going into the weekend – which is notably low compared to previous seasons.
In terms of the players, Sadio Mane has covered more distance than any other player between the sides, but a host of City players follow, with Ilkay Gudogan, Joao Cancelo and Ruben Dias all registering in excess of 48km from the six games to date, while Mane and Salah lead the way for sprints.
Who’s red hot?
The chart below uses the Sky Sports Power Rankings to rank players’ form, based on 35 matchday metrics, and incrementally awards a higher proportion of points for more recent games.
Salah has scored four goals and notched two assists in five appearances against Man City in all competitions at Anfield.
Salah is the current form player and topped the goalscoring chart with five goals before the weekend – level with Michail Antonio and Jamie Vardy, but City full-back Cancelo is clipping at his heels and stopper Ederson is riding high with his league-topping five clean sheets.
Now it’s your turn…
Use the interactive graphics below to explore team and player statistics in the Premier League this season…