The winner in clashes between the big clubs is often influenced more by the players who don’t play, rather than those who do. The game between Manchester City and Liverpool this Saturday may well suffer from this as both teams could well be without, arguably, their best player.
In a surprising move, Jürgen Klopp has announced that Philippe Coutinho has not made the squad for Liverpool’s trip to Manchester City. Barcelona’s pursuit of Coutinho throughout the summer clearly unsettled the Brazilian, and his desire to leave the Reds culminated in a transfer request on the eve of the opening match of the season.
The midfielder’s subsequent back injury and sickness miraculously healed in time for international duty, but he has thus far not featured for the Reds this season. Due to his lack of game time, just two substitute appearances for Brazil since the season started, Klopp has chosen not to include him in the group travelling to the Etihad stadium on Saturday morning. He will stay in Liverpool and carry on training to get fully fit for the upcoming busy run of games.
Vincent Kompany is highly unlikely to feature in the game after receiving a minor calf injury while on international duty with Belgium. Kompany was ruled out of the game against Greece on Sunday and is now unlikely to play in the match against Liverpool.
The loss of Kompany, although to be expected, is nonetheless a huge blow for the men from Manchester. His return to fitness has coincided with an improvement in City’s defensive performances. Kompany’s influence at the back is highlighted by the difference in results; City have lost only 10% of games with him in the side, but when he has not featured that figure has moved up to 18%. His loss may well force a change in formation from Pep Guardiola’s preferred three at the back to a more traditional four-man defence.
Of the two players, it would seem that a City have received the more damaging blow by losing Kompany. Liverpool have adjusted to playing without Coutinho in the side, and will likely name an unchanged forward line and possibly midfield too. After their attacking performance against Watford, Hoffenheim and Arsenal, forward play is clearly not a weakness for Klopp’s side. Defensive cover, on the other hand, is one of the few areas in which City are fallible. Time will tell as to whether the loss of the Belgian will be enough to swing the tie in the favour of Liverpool.
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