Manchester City vs Liverpool: Haaland vs van Dijk & Other Key Battles

All eyes will be on the Etihad Stadium on Saturday as champions Manchester City take on Liverpool in the Premier League.

The two Premier League heavyweights are currently tussling it out at the top of the table. Manchester City lead Liverpool by one point at the summit, meaning a win for either side could be crucial – even at this juncture of the season.

The Sky Blues went into the international break off the back of a thrilling 4-4 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, while the Reds dispatched Brentford 3-0 at Anfield. With both teams vying for all three points in a bid to gain a psychological edge in a potential title race, here are the key battles on the pitch that could define the outcome of this mouthwatering game.

#Erling Haaland vs Virgil van Dijk

Pep Guardiola’s heart would have been in his mouth after coming across the news of Erling Haaland suffering an ankle injury on international duty, although the injury is not serious and the striker is expected to be fit in time to face Liverpool. Despite not being at his sublime best, Haaland still leads the goalscoring charts with 13 goals in 12 league games.

The Norwegian is arguably the most fearsome striker in the world right now and Liverpool must conjure a plan to stop him at the weekend. Virgil van Dijk’s return to form has coincided with Liverpool enjoying a solid start to the season. With the Dutchman back to his best, the Reds have only conceded 10 goals—the joint-fewest in the division along with Arsenal.

On Saturday, Van Dijk must bring his A-game to the floor to stop Haaland, who netted twice in City’s 4-4 draw with Chelsea before the recent international break. All in all, this has the makings of a great one-on-one contest.

#Josko Gvardiol vs Mohamed Salah

With doubts over Nathan Ake’s fitness, it would appear that Pep Guardiola starts Josko Gvardiol on the left of a back three. The Croatian defender has also enjoyed a solid start aside from his nightmare at Chelsea, so he will need to up his game to stop an in-form Mohamed Salah.

Salah sits second to Haaland as the Premier League’s top scorer with 10 strikes. The Egyptian is still the Reds’ most dangerous player up front, and having netted 11 goals in 18 appearances against City in the past, he will be looking to terrify them again on Saturday.

Keeping the red-hot Salah quiet could go a long way to helping Man City get a positive result on Saturday, and Gvardiol has the ability, pace and defensive acumen to take on such a still challenge.

#Trent Alexander-Arnold vs Jeremy Doku

Trent Alexander-Arnold has played a big part in Jürgen Klopp’s remodelling work at Liverpool. Deployed in a hybrid role that enables him to drift inside from right-back when Liverpool are in possession, the England international gives Klopp’s side a different dimension in midfield. However, it also vacates spaces to exploit for the opposition if they win the ball back quickly.

In that regard, Jeremy Doku could well become a real handful for Liverpool. With his blistering pace, dribbling skills and directness, the Belgian could well torment Alexander-Arnold and the Liverpool backline. And if City dominate possession, Alexander-Arnold will be pegged back into his own half.

The English right-back is the main creator for his side, and if Doku can keep Alexander-Arnold on his toes, City can eliminate a major supply source to Liverpool’s forward line.

#Rodri vs Dominik Szoboszlai

The battle between Rodri and Dominik Szoboszlai will be key in deciding the outcome of this mouthwatering game, with both capable of offering the control and poise their managers crave.

Rodri is without a doubt Guardiola’s most important player due to his penetrative and incisive passes from deep. Liverpool cannot afford to give the Spaniard time and space to dictate the flow of the game, and Klopp could hand Szoboszlai the responsibility to disrupt his rhythm.

Szoboszlai’s work rate, dynamism and running power make Liverpool flexible in midfield and could disrupt the build-up tempo of City, while his late runs in the box and progressive passing might force Rodri to work more in the opposite direction.

Thus, it will be an exciting battle to watch between two technically solid midfielders at the Etihad Stadium.

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