Graeme Le Saux on Liverpool v Man City: Versatile Guardiola can unlock Reds

Graeme expects Pep Guardiola's side to remain unbeaten at Anfield
Graeme expects Pep Guardiola's side to remain unbeaten at Anfield
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Graeme Le Saux gives his views on life after Coutinho and whether Man City can continue their unbeaten streak at Anfield on Sunday...

"It'll be crucial for Liverpool to start on the front foot and keep the crowd onside and how City deal with that will be really interesting. Historically they've struggled to deal with teams that press high up the pitch but then this year they seem to be able to deal with anything!"

Liverpool v Man City
Sunday, 16:00 GMT
Live on Sky Sports Main Event / Premier League

There's life after Coutinho

Let's first deal with the elephant in the room - Philippe Coutinho - his sale was always inevitable when you have a club with the stature of Barcelona declare their interest. For those of us that enjoy watching top quality players, it's a shame we won't see him in the Premier League and I can understand why Liverpool supporters are downbeat, but sometimes you just have to be realistic.

And for those that were baulking at the £142 million fee, consider that Neymar was worth £200m and prior to that Pogba was valued at £89m so while it's another staggeringly inflated deal, the Coutinho fee is probably about right. Although it does makes you wonder what Harry Kane might be worth!

Ultimately I think the Reds are in a good position, they bought van Dijk before selling Coutinho, which may in fact have kept the price down! And they have a really good group of young players coming through, Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez and Ben Woodburn to name but a few.

Moreover when he hasn't been in the side this season, Liverpool have played well without him. Mo Salah has obviously been incredible alongside Mane and Firmino and they've got a huge sum of money that they can utilise to strengthen if they deem it necessary. I don't think they need to panic, of course they'll miss him but they may well be able to limit how much they miss him.

Delph v Salah

It'll be a great test for them on Sunday, to see whether they're able to move on quickly and emerge on top in what promises to be one of the most exciting games so far this season. Liverpool come into this fixture on a 17 game unbeaten streak and Manchester City continue to perform at an extra-ordinary level which is even more admirable given recent injuries and the busy festive schedule.

It shows how much versatility Pep Guardiola has in his squad with Fabian Delph playing really well at left-back and even Kevin De Bruyne being deployed in a deeper role recently; it all comes down to good coaching and confidence.

That being said, I do wonder if the potential match-up between Delph and Mo Salah could end up being one of the focal points of this game. When you play at the highest level, that's when a player operating out of their natural position can be exposed. And despite Fabian having had a fantastic season, he doesn't have the bank of knowledge that he perhaps would've if he'd grown up playing at left-back.

The higher the level you play at, the more intuitive your decisions need to be and there have been a few games when he's been caught out. On Sunday he'll come up against one of the best players in the country and if he becomes isolated against Salah, he could be in for a tough 90 minutes.

Guardiola has the key

It'll be crucial for Liverpool to start on the front foot and keep the crowd onside and how City deal with that will be really interesting. Historically they've struggled to deal with teams that press high up the pitch but then this year they seem to be able to deal with anything! They've always got a way of unlocking a team, whether it's the weight of a pass or a back-heel, I just can't see them not scoring at Anfield.

Equally I can't imagine Jurgen Klopp wanting to go out there and see his side appear like shrinking violets by setting up in two banks of five, it's just not his way. It almost reminds me of Mauricio Pochettino's approach when Spurs went to the Etihad earlier in the season, where they lost but they lost playing their way rather than setting up to get a draw.

The problem with playing that way for Liverpool is that they'll end up having to mark man for man and if you stack City's attacking talent up against Liverpool's rear-guard, unfortunately, there's only going to be one winner.

Graeme’s Weekend Wager

Man Utd to beat Stoke, Burnley to beat C.Palace and Bournemouth to draw v Arsenal at 22/1 (OddsBoosted from 18/1)

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