Four key battles that could decide Man City vs Liverpool

Liverpool vs Manchester City has been the defining fixture of recent Premier League seasons.

The two clubs often battling one another in the Premier League title race, few matches have taken on greater significance.

The Reds make the trip to the Etihad this Saturday under slightly less pressure. It's still early in the season, with the majority of Liverpool supporters undecided on whether or not a title charge is a genuine possibility.

Therefore, the weight of expectation rests firmly on Man City's shoulders, something Liverpool could capitalise on in Manchester.

However, Liverpool should not travel to the Etihad with an inferiority complex. The Reds sit just a point behind Man City and, despite not having won away at the Cityzens in the Premier League since 2015, Jurgen Klopp has some incredible players that he can unleash on the champions.

With both squads stacked full of talent, Saturday will be all about winning those individual battles. Let's take a look at which ones could prove decisive.


VIRGIL VAN DIJK VS ERLING HAALAND

Virgil van Dijk - Proshots.

Unsurprisingly, Erling Haaland will be fit to face Liverpool despite an injury scare. That means that last season's Premier League top scorer will be up against a resurgent Virgil van Dijk.

Despite some iffy performances last campaign, Van Dijk generally coped well with Haaland's threat. Few centre-backs can contain the Norwegian sharpshooter, but Liverpool's captain is certainly someone who can.

Van Dijk has been back to him imperious and impenetrable best this season, rebuffing the majority of strikers that have tried to get the better of him. His performance against Brentford prior to the international break was one of his best for some time in a red shirt.

However, Haaland is Haaland. Switch off for one second and he will pounce.

Van Dijk will have to continue his impressive form to stifle the 23-year-old, matching his pace and physicality for 90 minutes. It's time for the Dutchman to test himself against the best.

TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD VS JEREMY DOKU

A battle that will likely have Liverpool fans sweating profusely throughout the match will be Trent Alexander-Arnold vs Jeremy Doku on the Reds' right-hand side.

Man City's fleet-footed winger could be rotated with Jack Grealish, however, Pep Guardiola is likely to unleash the pacy Belgian on Saturday lunchtime.

Doku is exactly the kind of winger that Alexander-Arnold struggles against, someone who will pin him back and run at him repeatedly with ferocity. Not only will Doku's presence limit the Liverpool full-back's attacking influence, it could expose him defensively.

Alexander-Arnold has not been particularly adept in one-v-one situations and keeping Doku at bay will be the firmest test of his defensive credentials.

DOMINIK SZOBOSZLAI VS RODRI

Much like Haaland, defensive midfielder Rodri will be ready to face Liverpool this weekend despite some concerns over his fitness over the international period.

The Spaniard has been the lynchpin in a Man City team filled with superstars, Guardiola's side losing all three of the games he has missed this season.

He's the kind of defensive midfielder Klopp would love to have in this Liverpool side, but it's up to Dominik Szoboszlai to disrupt him at the weekend.

The summer signing, fresh from two impressive performances with Hungary, is expected to do more defensive work than usual at the Etihad, but he will still have to pose a threat going forward.

If Szoboszlai can press Rodri into errors and make him turn and face his own goal, then he will be restricting a key influence in the Man City team.

DARWIN NUNEZ VS RUBEN DIAS

There remains doubts over whether in-form Darwin Nunez can start against Man City. Travelling all the way back to Merseyside from South America after a goal-laden international break with Uruguay, Cody Gakpo may be chosen instead from the start.

However, whether from the off or off the bench, it feels like the kind of game that Nunez will be at the centre of - for better or worse.

Despite being Man City's best defender, Ruben Dias feels like the player Nunez could isolate. While a great warrior, the Man City man lacks pace, with Liverpool's No. 9 able to test him with plenty of darting runs in behind.

Man City are a strong defensive unit, but they conceded four goals in their last match against Chelsea. With the mood Nunez is in, he will fancy causing chaos at the Etihad.

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