Football: Pointers for Man City boss Pep for Saturday's big match against Liverpool

If City manager Pep Guardiola (above) plumps for width on Saturday, then Leroy Sane, who was nursing a knock on Monday, may come into consideration.
If City manager Pep Guardiola (above) plumps for width on Saturday, then Leroy Sane, who was nursing a knock on Monday, may come into consideration.PHOTO: AFP

1.  WELL-ROUNDED ATTACK

The great strength for Jurgen Klopp remains Liverpool's ability to spread the goals around.

If Saturday's opponents Manchester City focus on Roberto Firmino, quiet until his smartly taken strike, then Adam Lallana can punish them as he showed with the equaliser to peg back Stoke.

Sadio Mane claimed his ninth goal of the season and, just for good measure, Daniel Sturridge ended a 656-minute wait for a league goal with his first of the campaign just 56 seconds after appearing as a substitute.

Liverpool have had 12 different scorers in the Premier League this season. City will be aware of the need to be organised and focused, but even then that might not be enough.

2.  LEFT MAY BE RIGHT WAY

Erik Pieters supplied the excellent cross for Stoke's goal but manager Mark Hughes will feel that the opportunities to probe behind Nathaniel Clyne were not exploited fully to begin with.

City's fluid formation in the 3-0 win away to Hull on Boxing Day meant that David Silva, Nolito, Kevin de Bruyne and Raheem Sterling all popped up on the left as Pep Guardiola, the City manager, opted to go without a recognised forward.

If he plumps for width on Saturday, then Leroy Sane, who was nursing a knock on Monday, may come into consideration.

Whatever the permutation, it is an area where Liverpool can appear vulnerable, with right-back Clyne often left exposed by his team-mates.

3.  AGUERO WILL BE KEY FIGURE

Given that Liverpool can seemingly score at will, City can ill afford to leave Sergio Aguero out of their starting line-up.

The Argentina forward is available for Saturday's game after suspension for his tackle on Chelsea's David Luiz, and Guardiola will have to mobilise as much fire-power as he can.

Goalkeeper is still a problem position for Liverpool with Simon Mignolet under scrutiny for failing to keep out Jonathan Walters' header for Stoke, even if he did redeem himself with a save from Joe Allen that prevented the visiting team from going two up.

Shoot on sight could be City's best chance of improving a poor recent record against the so-called big six.

4.  LALLANA WILL PULL THE STRINGS

It was the 69th minute on Tuesday when Adam Lallana's importance to Liverpool was underlined: Emre Can replaced the England midfielder, who was given some extra rest with City in mind.

Lallana's value far exceeds the seven goals he has now mustered this term, although the improvement in his productivity has grabbed the attention. He has become Liverpool's heartbeat, and Klopp would not have been surprised at who dragged them back into a pivotal encounter.

The midfield battle will be crucial on Saturday. Can City trust Yaye Toure and Fernandinho to tame Lallana, Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum? Or will Guardiola switch to 4-3-3?

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 29, 2016, with the headline 'Pointers for Pep for Saturday's big match'. Print Edition | Subscribe