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Liverpool are built to beat Manchester City

Jurgen Klopp's side go into the biggest game of their season in good form and with the blueprint to beat Manchester City in hand.

Liverpool and Manchester City are the same quality of team, but the style of Jurgen Klopp's side gives them the edge.

Diego Simeone won no fans on Tuesday night.

Atletico Madrid achieved their own personal version of nirvana. They sat five defenders in front of their goalkeeper and five more midfielders in front of the defensive line. It took Manchester City a long time to break them down, but they eventually did with Kevin De Bruyne scoring the only goal of the game.

For most teams, maybe all but one team, that's a successful result in Manchester. You can't go into the Eithad and expect to win. A score draw would have mattered if away goals still counted, so the best option is a 0-0 draw or 1-0. Simeone got what he wanted and now he'll try to match City on home turf in the second leg.

Jurgen Klopp won't take the same approach. For one, the circumstances are different. Liverpool don't desperately need a victory, but realistically they won't be happy with a draw.

Liverpool and Manchester City drew 2-2 in October. That game was in Anfield. But it was also a very, very different Liverpool team. Luis Diaz wasn't there yet and, more importantly, James Milner started at right back. Phil Foden roasted Milner on the day. He was badly exposed as a 35-year-old central midfielder playing right back should be.

Curtis Jones also started in midfield.

At that stage of the season, Virgil Van Dijk was also not fully back in stride. That was exemplified when Bernardo Silva turned him inside out during the first half. Van Dijk is now back to his very best and starting every game.

The Liverpool team that starts on Sunday will have Trent Alexander-Arnold back and could feature any combination of midfielders and attackers. Klopp's squad is fully healthy. In fact, the only real concern they have is a mild one and that is the energy levels of Mohamed Salah. The Egyptian has had minimal impact in his last two games.

But Salah will be a key to beating Manchester City. The suffocating style of Pep Guardiola's side means the best course of action is to sit deep and play on the counter attack. Since Manchester City play without a striker, it's also a perfect game for Fabinho and Jordan Henderson to prove their worth breaking up play in the midfield.

Once that happens, there will be opportunities for Liverpool to pull Manchester City's center backs into space.

As Ireland know from Adam Idah's experiences against Portugal, City's center backs can be beaten one-on-one. Sadio Mane playing through the middle doesn't perfectly fit his skill set, but it does perfectly fit this game. Klopp has moved Mane into the middle over recent weeks to accommodate Diaz. One must wonder if that move was done with this game in mind.

Liverpool can replicate the defensive rigidity, energy and discipline of Atletico Madrid. But they can also complement that style with the speed and precision in counter attacks.

Mane opened the scoring for Liverpool against City at Anfield. He did so on a counter attack. Fabinho played the ball quickly to Salah in his own half. Salah isolated himself against against Joao Cancelo to clip the ball past him down the sideline. He was immediately in space one-on-one against Aymeric Laporte. Salah's speed drew Laporte out of position, creating a running lane for Mane against Ruben Dias.

Dias couldn't keep pace with Mane so the forward had a simple finish past Ederson.

Salah then scored a world class goal of his own by beating Bernardo Silva on the edge of the box before turning Laporte the wrong way inside the box. Foden created Manchester City's equalizer, this time finding space in behind Joe Gomez who had replaced Milner.

While Alexander-Arnold isn't the greatest defender in the world, he's consistently improved his positional play and one-on-one defending over this season. It's no longer a case of Liverpool living with his mistakes in defence because of his quality in attack. He's now a net-positive player in both halves, with or without the ball.

Both Manchester City and Liverpool are in good form. They're by far the two best teams in England right now. And while City have the odds in their favour, the style of this game and how it plays out favours Klopp's side.

Liverpool will find space in ways that other teams haven't. They will be able to replicate and improve upon Tottenham's performance in February. Antonio Conte's side scored three goals on 28% possession because Harry Kane was on form. An early goal in that game helped, but the blueprint to beat Manchester City was there.

You can safely assume Liverpool will have more than 28% possession.

It's also in Liverpool's favour that they know the result they need. Manchester City's passive style could very easily see them drift into playing for a draw if the game is a stalemate for long enough. You don't want to fall into that false sense of security against a team that has at least four players who can create a goal from nothing in any moment.

Off The Ball brings you live commentary of Manchester City vs. Liverpool on Sunday with kickoff at 4:30pm.

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Read more about

Jurgen Klopp Kevin De Bruyne Liverpool Luis Diaz Manchester City Mohamed Salah Pep Guardiola Phil Foden Sadio Mane