Liverpool’s plans heading into their game against Manchester City proved that there was one star, in particular, that needed taking care of.
Kevin de Bruyne, a boyhood Liverpool fan who idolised Michael Owen as a child, was the man that most Reds fans would have been fearful of as the game at the Etihad Stadium unfolded – but his impact did not prove as decisive as it might have done in the end.
Instead, Liverpool’s midfield, containing only Gini Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson, was able to cope – and not for the first time – against the supremely talented attacking threat, as much as can reasonably be expected.
On the Analysing Anfield podcast, Josh Williams said: “De Bruyne only had 48 touches in the game. He has played 90 minutes 53 times in the Premier League and he has posted lower than 48 touches only once.
Listen to the Analysing Anfield podcast in full HERE
“Since 2017 and of those 53 games, the lowest for touches was when City won 4-0, when he posted 39, even though City completely dominated that one.
“Second-bottom is Sunday’s game and there are a few others in there involving Liverpool as well – Liverpool generally do well to keep his impact lower than usual.
“In terms of Klopp’s game-plan when he faces Pep Guardiola, it always seems to focus on stopping De Bruyne.”
What Liverpool did in thwarting, in the main, De Bruyne’s influence on the game – keeping him to no shots on target, a passing accuracy of just 75 per cent, and three chances of any kind created – underlines the influence that Henderson and Wijnaldum had.
De Bruyne did get into his favoured wide-right position to provide the cross that led to Joe Gomez giving away the penalty kick that the Belgian put wide of the target.
Gabriel Jesus’ goal came from a De Bruyne pass, but that was a moment of quality predicated on the Brazilian’s turn inside the area more than a reflection on a piece of magic from City’s number 17.
Even in the spot-kick that De Bruyne took, Liverpool got the better of him.
Williams added: “Alisson was really bold and had safe hands – he didn’t let anything loose. And you could argue that because of the keeper that he is, and how well he is playing, that he has had an influence on De Bruyne for the missed penalty.
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“De Bruyne knows that he has got to put it right in the corner [otherwise the excellent Alisson will make a save] and he goes too heavy on it.”
The Belgian former Chelsea star is clearly one of the best players in the Premier League, but Liverpool up to now have got the better of him in their matches against him.
Klopp’s next plan to play City will undoubtedly revolve around De Bruyne once more given how good the midfielder is, but that Liverpool have coped so admirably to this point with him shows how strong their own midfield area really is.