At the time Liverpool and their supporters were enjoying a customary thumping win at Porto, their next opponents were engaged in a far more challenging fixture.
The Reds welcome Manchester City to Anfield on Sunday afternoon in what is likely to be a key match in the 2021/22 Premier League title race.
Pep Guardiola’s side spent their Tuesday evening in France, going down 2-0 to Paris Saint-Germain. A glance at the basic statistics from the match would imply that City were unlucky not to take something from the game.
They led the shot count by 18 to six, the shots on target count by seven to three, and had a trio of clear-cut chances when PSG did not have any.
Yet there are lies, damned lies and statistics, and these numbers do not tell the full story of the match.
Even the expected goal numbers from the game are somewhat misleading and these discrepancies all stem from what occurred in the 26 th minute. The visitors were already trailing thanks to an early strike from former Everton midfielder Idrissa Gueye.
As they looked to get back into the match, Kevin De Bruyne – who was later a little fortunate not to be sent off for a bad foul on Gueye – delivered a fantastic cross into the centre of the box.
Raheem Sterling got on the end of it but headed the ball against the bar. Bernardo Silva got to the rebound first, only to find the woodwork himself, and when given another opportunity to score his swipe at the ball barely made contact.
In short, all three of City’s clear-cut chances in the match, and a significant chunk of their expected goals, occurred in the space of about three seconds.
While they undoubtedly should have scored from this attack, just two of their 15 other shots were worth even the average xG value of 0.1 ( per Infogol ), leaving 13 shots which were valued as having a less than one-in-ten chance of resulting in a goal.
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With 16 minutes left to play Lionel Messi delivered his first dose of Messi magic in a PSG shirt and the game was up as far as City were concerned.
And though Mauricio Pochettino’s side rode their luck in the first half goal mouth scramble, they put in plenty of hard work to secure the result. A big reason for their success was something Liverpool can look to emulate this weekend.
While correlation is rarely the same as causation, an interesting fact can be gleaned by looking at how well an opposing team presses Manchester City, as it can often align with the result.
Across their eight matches in league and Europe this season, City’s collective opponents have been successful with 23.7 percent of their pressures against them ( per FBRef ).
However, those that have been above that average have got a positive result. PSG won possession with 25.7 per cent of their pressures, Tottenham 28.6 in their victory on the opening weekend, and Southampton 36.1 when securing a point at the Etihad. The five teams who were below the average all lost.
It was similar last season, in that the most successful pressing performance against the Citizens was recorded by Chelsea in the Champions League final, with their league defeats to Brighton and Leicester in among the top six opposition pressing performances too.
Liverpool’s efforts in their away game at City, before the injury crisis had fully bitten, were the fifth best the eventual champions faced, with a 31.7 percent hit rate. In the return game at Anfield, with the Reds down to the bare bones, they recorded a below average 22.9 percent pressure success rate.
When it comes to who will feature for the visitors on Sunday, there are unlikely to be too many surprises. Seven players have started at least six of City’s eight games in the two main competitions, and De Bruyne (who isn’t one of them) is bound to be in Guardiola’s starting XI too.
But isn’t so much about who Liverpool will face but how well the Reds press them. History shows Liverpool get positive results if they make 53 successful pressures, and City don’t always do well when pressed. Jurgen Klopp knows exactly what his side have to do this weekend.