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Liverpool and Manchester City full-backs hold key in top-of-table clash | Jonathan Wilson

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Jürgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola have both reined in their attacking instincts this season, aware of leaving gaps in defence

It is all about the full-backs but these days it is always all about the full‑backs. From a tactical point of view Sunday’s meeting between Liverpool and Manchester City is likely to be settled by Trent Alexander-Arnold against Aymeric Laporte and Andy Robertson against Kyle Walker – and, if it is not, it will be because Pep Guardiola has chosen not to take on that fight. Jack Charlton’s observation after the 1994 World Cup that full-back had become the most important position on the pitch seems wiser by the day.

Full-backs, Louis van Gaal insists, are the key to Guardiola. The biggest difference between the football he practised with Guardiola in his midfield at Barcelona in the late 90s and that played by City now, he said in an interview for The Barcelona Legacy, “is that a lot of times he has two full-backs in front of the central defenders. Guardiola takes a big risk and that’s why he can lose. The space behind is too big for the central defenders and he doesn’t have such fast central defenders.

Related: Relief for Pep Guardiola after Manchester City overcome fear factor

Related: Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge hits back after Eden Hazard’s Chelsea strike

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