Roberto Firmino duel with in-form Sergio Aguero among key Liverpool-Man City battles

Aditya Devavrat 10:13 06/10/2018
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Aguero is in a purple patch while Firmino's form has been middling.

Liverpool host Manchester City in the latest top-of-the-table clash, with the two sides level on points at the top of the Premier League table.

The Reds have tended to be a kryptonite for City in recent seasons, especially at home, while Reds manager Jurgen Klopp has enjoyed playing that role against opposite number Pep Guardiola for quite a while now.

But it’s the players who execute the two coaches’ clashing gameplans. Here’s a look at the key battles that will determine the outcome.

Roberto Firmino v Sergio Aguero

Roberto Firmino hasn’t been in great scoring form of late.

He only has three goals this season, two in the league. In fact, when it comes to finding the back of the net, though he finished seventh in last season’s scoring standings it was with a merely respectable tally of 15.

It didn’t matter because Firmino’s play was helping Mohamed Salah score for fun. But the Egyptian’s form hasn’t hit last season’s heights, which has the added effect of bringing his team-mate’s scoring record into the spotlight.

As long as Liverpool keep chugging along, it won’t matter who scores the goals. But they could still do with their central striker finding the net more regularly.

No such problems over at City, where Sergio Aguero shows no signs of slowing down, just over a year after his future at  City was in doubt following speculations that Guardiola didn’t consider the striker the ideal man for his system.

That argument has disappeared completely following a season in which his goals delivered a league title, and he’s started this campaign with six goals across competitions.

Five of those have come in the league, including a hat-trick against Huddersfield. He’s scored in three-straight games, though given that those were all one-goal performances, he’s probably due a brace or another hat-trick against Liverpool.

1005 Firmino v Aguero

James Milner v David Silva

James Milner might be 32, but these days it seems like his best is still being unlocked, or just getting better and better. His ability to find a team-mate simply by being in the right place to play the right pass is among the best in the league – he’s currently tied for seventh in the Premier League’s all-time assist charts with 80, and he could easily end up becoming just the fourth man to 100.

Finally being consistently played as a midfielder since last season, he’s now a guaranteed starter in a team that bought two midfielders this summer. Says it all.

Unlike Milner, fellow 32-year-old David Silva has been far more feted in terms of overall recognition, though Milner has previously won a PFA award (2010 Young Player of the Year). Hopefully one day Silva equals that tally, because there is now a serious argument to be made that he’s the best midfielder in Premier League history.

It also does seem like Silva, too, is only getting better with age, like his former team-mate, and this season he’s been crucial to ensuring Kevin De Bruyne‘s injury-enforced absence hasn’t been felt at City. This fixture could throw up a midfield duel for the ages.

1005 Milner v Silva

Andy Robertson v Kyle Walker

With each passing Andy Robertson performance, the £8 million Liverpool paid Hull City for him last summer seems less like mere daylight robbery and more a legendary heist deserving of a movie, perhaps with an all-star ensemble cast playing the much-derided Anfield transfer committee.

He’s picked up where he left off last season, producing an especially impressive performance a couple of weeks ago to keep Kylian Mbappe quiet during the Reds’ win over Paris Saint-Germain.

In a poor Liverpool display against Napoli in midweek, the left-back was one of the few shining lights. Now it’s the fearsome City attack he has to stop, but who would bet against him?

Part of that attack includes City’s own full-back, as Kyle Walker has cemented his reputation as the best attacking right-back in the league. Where once he was almost pure pace, now he’s got the skill, vision, and passing range to match, as Guardiola has molded him into the prototypical modern full-back.

He still uses that pace as a crutch to bail him out of the occasional defensive lapse, something that will be tested by Robertson’s own attacking ability. It should be a fascinating battle between the two players.

1005 Robertson vs Walker

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