Strap yourselves in and hold on tight because Sunday we will watch the best passers in world football take on the best pressers in the game.

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Manchester City want to win a Treble, Liverpool a Quadruple, and this might be the first of a triple-header between these two juggernauts — tomorrow in the Premier League, next week in the FA Cup semi-finals and maybe next month in the Champions League final.

Kickstarting this potential trilogy is a high-speed spectacle at the Etihad Stadium.

Time and space will be at a premium for both sets of players in what will be a breathless battle.

City will look to dominate the game with their slick, short, sharp passing and Liverpool will try to suffocate and stifle their opponents, as they did to an extent in the reverse fixture at Anfield.

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That clash ended 2-2 and, interestingly, it saw City record their lowest possession and fewest successful passes of the season. Liverpool are capable of choking City with their petrifying press.

The entire team pushes up so much that you’ll see the back four, led by their commander in chief Virgil van Dijk, on the halfway line.

That condenses the space in the opposition’s half, where Liverpool’s busy front three can harass their opponents into giving up the ball.

That is the visitors’ first line of defence. But City will not change their game because of this. They will keep calm, keep passing and keep trying to beat that high press because that’s what they’re trained to do.

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If City can do that successfully, they can create opportunities, particularly with the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva making runs from midfield to get behind the Liverpool backline.

That is a key movement; De Bruyne breaking behind to meet Phil Foden’s pass was how City finally got the better of Atletico Madrid in the Champions League in midweek.

There will be so many potential match-winners that it could be one moment of magic that settles this match.

Maybe a flash of artistry from the fantastic De Bruyne. Or a spectacular finish from Foden, the proud Mancunian.

Or perhaps another Goal of the Season contender from Mo Salah, whose strike in the 2-2 draw was Lionel Messi-esque.

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When you look at Pep Guardiola’s philosophy, it will never be better emphasised than in the match-up between Salah and Joao Cancelo. Although he will want Cancelo to win his defensive battle with Salah, Guardiola’s greatest desire is to have his left-back push up into the final third and use his movement and passing to help City win the game.

Although the modern-day role of the full-back has changed, most managers would still be sending their man out with strict instructions to stay at home and stop Salah at all costs. But not Guardiola.

In the build-up to Liverpool’s opener from Sadio Mane in the 2-2 draw, Rodri had been pulled out of position in front of the City backline. Once Salah had breezed by Cancelo, City were exposed and Mane made sure he ran into the channel away from the rapid Kyle Walker.

Liverpool would love to recreate this situation where Rodri is dragged away from the middle and Salah is one-v-one with Cancelo.

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Conversely, Foden gave James Milner just as tough an afternoon last time out. Milner was filling in at right-back for Trent Alexander-Arnold, whose return gives Liverpool a big boost with the quality of his deliveries.

None of us should be taking this rivalry for granted. These are two remarkable teams operating under outstanding managers who live for the challenge of being the best.

Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp will not be in the Premier League forever so let’s enjoy these epic battles between them while we can.

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Many managers have come and gone since the days of Bill Shankly at Liverpool but none seem as connected to the club as Klopp. He’s got his finger on the pulse with the players, the fans and the city and we’ll see him try to own the touchline on Sunday.

He’ll stand on the sidelines like a conductor, cajoling and putting players into their required positions.

Guardiola has seen it all before and won’t be drawn into any touchline spats.

The City boss remains calmer, full of confidence that his players can get him the victory.

During my career, I was involved in some epic head-to-heads between Arsenal and Manchester United and there was always aggression there. We didn’t like them and they didn’t like us.

In this new rivalry between Guardiola’s City and Klopp’s Liverpool, there seems to be much healthier respect for one another. They field identical formations but with different styles.

Each will try to emerge victorious tomorrow by playing their own game and no one else’s.

May the best man and his team win.


Note: This article is written by Martin Kewon and has been published in Daily Mail UK

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