Yesterday’s win at Anfield against Manchester City was a fine way to cap what has been quite an impressive year for the Reds in Jurgen Klopp’s first full season as Liverpool boss. We’ve ended 2016 in second place six points behind leaders Chelsea. With all the teams now having played each other and with our only away trips in the second half of the season to teams currently occupying a top six spot is both Manchester clubs. We could be in for quite a finale to the season come May. But as the players have eluded a number of times this season in pre and post match interviews, it’s one game at a time.
Yesterday’s victory against City was far from a footballing spectacle, I was a little disappointed in the quality from both teams at times. Liverpool needlessly conceded turnovers in possession and in my opinion created the games only clear cut chance. Which was brilliantly taken by Georginio Wijnaldum who leaped above Kolarov to give us the lead. He followed up with a brilliant display (who was my MOTM), closely followed by James Milner who was absolutely superb yet again. Sterling never once had the better of him and he continued to provide us an outlet going forward. He very nearly produced one of the assists of the season had Roberto Firmino been able to control his through ball which would of seen him in on goal with only Bravo to beat. I also thought the rest of our defense (in particular Klavan and Lovren) were fantastic.
Manchester City were really poor with a front four of De Bruyne, Sterling, Silva and Aguero. You’d expect them to at least trouble Mignolet but it wasn’t the case. In fact in 90 minutes of football Sergio Aguero never touched the ball in our 18-yard area. In possession too they were so wasteful as this was largely due to (particularly in the first half), a very compact Liverpool team that defended high up the field. This restricted City to having to try mixing up the pass once their initial movement didn’t open up any space in front of them. It often lead to mistakes with wayward diagonal passes that either went out or were fairly easily dealt with. The first half also saw Liverpool disciplined in our pressing as Greame Le Saux was lauding our press and it’s intensity but I didn’t see it that way completely. I think we were compact and our forwards sat a little bit off City’s back four and picked their moments when to engage in the press. It allowed them to have to ball ensuring we’d stay compact and not open up space between Can-Hendo-Gigi and our back four. Tactically in the first half I thought we were brilliant, even though technically we weren’t at our scintillating best.
The second half saw them enjoy a little bit more space in our half with Liverpool making a few more technical errors than in the first half. Still there wasn’t much City delivered in terms of clear cut chances as they resorted to shots from outside the box that hardly troubled our number 22 with Silva coming the closest. What was encouraging was our defensive display. We’ve proved during the season that we can score goals (scored 46, 4 more than Chelsea) but it was our defense yesterday that showed yet again that we can in fact grind out a result (much to the experts dismay). It may need to be the case as we head to The Stadium of Light, a mere 48 hours later.
With Jordan Henderson's fitness in doubt and only a day between the two games, our trip up North is going to be a tricky one. They were handed a 4-1 hiding by Burnley and currently occupy 18th spot in the table two points behind Crystal Palace. The fact that Sturridge didn’t get on the park yesterday may point to him playing a role tomorrow from the get go. With Divock Origi coming on with about 25 to go against Manchester City, having the pair fresh for the game at Sunderland will be a key factor. If we can get the win we narrow the gap to just three points as Chelsea make the trip away to Spurs on Wednesday. This will add a little bit more pressure on the Blues as they head into the London Derby. It’s so difficult to second guess Jurgen Klopp’s lineups as he proved yet again yesterday just how smart he is, not many saw a front three of Lallana-Firmino-Mane. I will make a guess at the starting 11: Unchanged back five with Gigi-Can-Lallana in the middle and Firmino-Origi-Mane up front.
We go again.