Will Pep’s City Bounce Back and Take Title with Win over United?
It’s a mighty quick turnaround, but Manchester City need to prove they have mental strength to match their brilliance when they face Manchester United on Saturday.
The Premier League title is City’s for the taking with the win, but they need to do it on the back of a chastening 3-0 loss to Liverpool in the Champions League on Wednesday.
During what has been a brilliant season for City, manager Pep Guardiola has seemingly been playing chess two or three moves ahead of every opponent.
The problem City faced on Wednesday was that Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool picked up the chessboard and threw it in the air, scattering pieces all over Anfield and rendering Pep’s plans useless.
Liverpool were quite brilliant in how they breathlessly, ruthlessly pressed City high up the pitch, forcing errors, turning the ball over and crafting chance after chance.
To see a City side go 90 minutes without registering a shot on target speaks volumes about how Liverpool dominated the contest. It was a performance that offered a template for every other side in world football to take on in a bid to combat City, but whether any other team is capable of pressing them in the way Klopp’s Reds did is another matter.
And whether City will be bitten twice by the same tactical beast is another matter. To err is only human, and Pep proved he is human with a major tactical blunder. In electing to bench Raheem Sterling in favour of Ilkay Gundogan, Pep doffed his cap to the threat Liverpool possess. Pep leaves no stone unturned in his tactical planning, but the general rule is that he sets his sides up to beat the opposition. By starting Gundogan, he indicated he wanted his team to be more compact in midfield and condense space.
It backfired spectacularly, as Gundogan tucked inside and left City’s right flank open to attack. That Liverpool were able to make use of it through Andy Robertson was testament to their quality, but it was an error from Pep and one that won’t be repeated.
Manchester United have the chance to inflict further pain in City, to deny them their first shot at claiming the title. The template has been laid by Liverpool, the problem United face is that manager Jose Mourinho is unlikely to adopt it.
Pressing, attacking, harrying high up the pitch is an alien concept to Mourinho away from home – especially against a side as good as City. The Portuguese will agonise over it, but will ultimately go with what he knows and that will be to condense the space between his own defence and midfield and make his side extremely tough to break down.
City’s players may still be feeling the effects of the Liverpool hurricane on Saturday, but they will find United a far more palatable challenge and they can justify 188BET’s pre-game price of 1.90 and pick up their first Premier League crown of the Guardiola era.
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