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Liverpool vs Man City: Van Dijk vs Haaland & Other Key Battles To Watch Out For

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Liverpool square off against Manchester City in what is expected to be a blockbuster Premier League game at Anfield on Sunday.

Jurgen Klopp’s side are 13 points behind Man City, and the defeat to Arsenal away last week has nearly extinguished their hopes of being in the title race. However, they bounced back from the defeat at Arsenal by trouncing Rangers 7-1 at the Ibrox in the Champions League, thus, giving themselves some confidence ahead of Sunday’s mouthwatering fixture.

As for the visitors, Pep Guardiola’s side are on a club record run of 22 away league games without defeat since losing 1-0 to Tottenham on the opening weekend of last season. They demolished Southampton 4-0 at the Etihad Stadium last weekend and head to Anfield as favourites.

That said, here are the key on-field battles that could define the outcome of the game.

#Erling Haaland vs Virgil van Dijk

All eyes will be on this epic battle between Erling Haaland and Virgil van Dijk. Haaland has exceeded expectations with his performances for Man City thus far, scoring 20 goals in 12 games across all competitions. He has taken City’s attack to another level with his speed, aerial prowess, link-up play and goal-scoring ability while munching on defences like a toast.

Inside a raucous Anfield, Haaland will come up against Liverpool’s defensive lynchpin Virgil van Dijk. The Dutchman has suffered a slump in form this term, making uncharacteristic errors at the back that has led to Liverpool leaking goals.

As a result, it will be a test of character for Van Dijk and the Liverpool defence to stop a fiery Haaland. Van Dijk will have to be extremely alert throughout the 90 minutes, and get as tight to the Norwegian goal-machine as possible, affording him very less space to make runs in behind the defence or in the box.

#Mohamed Salah vs Joao Cancelo

Mohamed Salah roared back to form with the fastest ever Champions League hat-trick against Rangers on Wednesday. Prior to that, the forward looked like a man devoid of energy and ideas, enduring his first bad spell since he joined Liverpool back in 2017, and that was highlighted by the fact he was substituted in the second half against Arsenal.

But the hat-trick should have done him a world of good and Salah will now walk into the big game against City with a lot of confidence, hoping to make things click with Roberto Firmino, Darwin Nunez and Diogo Jota in the final third.

Starting at left-back, Joao Cancelo will have to work tirelessly to deny Salah time and space on the ball. As the adventurous Portuguese likes to go forward and create openings for his teammates, he will have to be extremely careful with his decision-making on and off the ball while marking the Liverpool star.

The Salah vs Cancelo match-up is another contest that could have a big impact on the outcome of the game.

#Phil Foden vs Andy Robertson

Assuming Phil Foden starts on the right flank, like he did in the Manchester derby and tormented Erik ten Hag’s men no end, Andy Robertson will face an uphill task of stopping him.

Fit-again Robertson might make his first league appearance for six weeks after recovering from injury, and the Scotland captain couldn’t have asked for a stiffer test than keeping Foden quiet. Brimming with confidence, Foden is one of the most in-form players in the division and can make life difficult for Robertson.

So, the Liverpool left-back will have to be very careful when picking his moments to venture forward and join attacks, given Foden is quick, decisive and smart, and could cause a lot of damage on the counter-attack.

#Thiago Alcantara vs Kevin de Bruyne

Two midfield maestros in Thiago Alcantara and Kevin de Bruyne will come head to head on the Anfield turf.

Thiago controls the tempo of play for Liverpool, and his passing range, energy and spatial awareness will be key in launching attacks on Sunday. To nip the Liverpool attacks in the bud, City must stop the Spanish technician from enjoying freedom and time on the ball.

Kevin de Bruyne will not be tasked to man-mark Thiago but he must close him down quickly whenever possible whilst creating opportunities for Haaland and co. Similarly, Thiago must keep a close check on the City star and stop him from picking pockets of spaces in the final third.

With De Bruyne in sublime form, it will take a special performance from Thiago and Liverpool to keep him quiet.

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