Birmingham: Liverpool resume their Premier League title charge at Aston Villa on Saturday with Jurgen Klopp hoping to avoid a repeat of the defensive mayhem that nearly wrecked their dramatic League Cup win against Arsenal.
Klopp played a reserve side for the fourth round tie on Wednesday, featuring a number of emerging stars, and saw them advance via a penalty shoot-out having twice overcome two-goal deficits to draw 5-5 in 90 minutes.
Liverpool conceded as many goals in one cup game as they have all season at Anfield in the Premier League so, while it was a memorable evening, Klopp will be banking on his regular defence returning to their miserly ways at Villa Park.
Klopp’s system is based on defending from the front and launching a devastating press whenever the opposition are in possession.
It is an approach that carried Liverpool to Champions League glory last season and has put them in pole position to win the title this term.
Klopp’s high-tempo game-plan also makes the most of the abilities of Brazilian striker Roberto Firmino.
The 28-year-old has scored just three league goals in 10 appearances this season, below his normal productivity rate.
While Firmino’s goal record may have come under scrutiny outside Anfield, within the club his status and reputation appears to be rising with every passing month.
Experts have described Firmino as the best player in the world at what he does: implementing Klopp’s complicated, but hugely successful, tactical, pressing system.
By comparison, Xherdan Shaqiri has been with Liverpool for nearly 18 months and is still not trusted by Klopp, in big games at least, because of his inability to carry out precise and demanding instructions.
The Liverpool manager requires his forwards, when out of possession, to constantly close down angles to prevent opposition defences passing the ball forward.
Guardiola’s City take on Southampton
Meanwhile, Sergio Aguero holds the key to Manchester City’s bid to overhaul Premier League leaders Liverpool as the Argentine striker reaps the rewards of the “best decision of his life”.
When Aguero walks onto the Etihad Stadium pitch ahead of Saturday’s clash with Southampton, he will feel more at one with his surroundings than he would ever have imagined when he arrived eight years ago.
Back then, Aguero was a talented but not yet fully rounded player hoping to thrive in England after a promising start to his European career with Atletico Madrid.
The intervening years have been a dream come true for Aguero, who is now City’s record goal-scorer and has amassed four Premier League titles, one FA Cup and four League Cups while helping the club’s become top dogs in Manchester.
Aguero marked his 350th appearance with two goals against Southampton earlier this week.
United travel to Bournemouth
Elsewhere, Manchester United, enjoying a mini-revival after their poor start, can make it four successive away wins when they visit Bournemouth.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side beat Chelsea in the League Cup on Wednesday thanks to Marcus Rashford’s superb free-kick and the United striker feels confidence is growing in the squad.
“If you get a couple of wins back-to-back early on in the season it can change the direction the season is going,” Rashford said.
“When you’re winning back-to-back games, the team’s confidence levels go up,” the Manchester United star said.
In another match, Arsenal boss Unai Emery will be under pressure to deliver a win against Wolves after his side blew leads against Liverpool and Crystal Palace.
The Palace match was marred by Granit Xhaka’s astonishing feud with Gunners fans and the fall-out continues, with Emery still deciding whether to strip him of the captaincy....