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Manchester United legend Paul Scholes 'sick' of Jose Mourinho moaning

Manchester United legend Paul Scholes 'sick' of Jose Mourinho moaning

ESPN

It is the biggest game of the Premier League season so far: Liverpool versus Manchester City, the top two, locked together on 19 points from seven games and both boasting unbeaten records.

A win for either team would be a huge psychological blow in the race for the title and mark them out as early favourites to finish on top. So will be Jurgen Klopp or Pep Guardiola, Mohamed Salah or Sergio Aguero, who make the difference at Anfield on Sunday? And what are the key factors that will decide the outcome of the game?

Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola have faced each other on 14 previous occasions, with the Liverpool manager Klopp winning seven encounters. Guardiola has won five, with two draws making up the numbers.

Klopp's statistics have been boosted significantly by three successive victories against Guardiola's City team already in 2018 and there is a real sense going into this weekend's game that the German has cracked the code when it comes to nullifying Guardiola's teams.

Under Klopp, Liverpool swarm their opponents in the attacking third and deny them time on the ball, a tactic that has repeatedly caused City problems. Guardiola will have spent hours attempting to devise a plan to swing the pendulum back in his favour against Klopp. For these reasons, the tactical battle will be an intriguing element of the game.

Both teams can be irresistible going forward, with the respective goal threat of Liverpool and City the biggest weapon for both teams.

City put five past Liverpool at the Etihad last season -- albeit against a 10-man Liverpool following the dismissal of Sadio Mane -- but Klopp's team won 4-3 at Anfield in January before scoring three times without reply in the Champions League quarterfinal first-leg last season.

Defensively, both teams can be too open, but Liverpool have improved considerably in that department following the additions of goalkeeper Alisson and centre-half Virgil van Dijk.

Both sides have been able to exploit weaknesses down the flanks against each other, but these are two teams without glaring weaknesses. The end result is usually down to which team hits its stride quickest.

It's stating the obvious to suggest that the game will rest on whether Salah or Aguero scores the most goals. Both forwards are crucial to their respective teams, but the reality is that the key figures are further back in each side.

For Liverpool, Van Dijk's presence is crucial. The £75 million centre-half gives his team solidity and organisation at the back. He can also dictate the tempo from his position at the heart of the defence. Simply put: If Van Dijk plays well, Liverpool usually win.

For City, David Silva remains the man who makes them tick, particularly without the injured Kevin De Bruyne. Silva can pick holes in the Liverpool defence if he is allowed to glide unchecked between the midfield and attacking lines and seems the most likely architect of any City victory.

Call this the "James Milner factor." The likes of Salah, Aguero and Raheem Sterling may claim the spotlight, but the secret of both teams is the work done by those players who often go unnoticed.

Milner, who left City for Liverpool in 2015 to secure regular football, is in the form of his life at the age of 32, giving Klopp's team experience, reliability and tenacity in the heart of midfield. The former Leeds and Newcastle midfielder is never less than a 7/10 performer, his contribution rubbing off on the likes of Andy Robertson, Jordan Henderson and Trent Alexander-Arnold, who are also key to Liverpool's sparkling start to the season.

For City, Fernandinho is the glue that holds it all together in the heart of the team. At 33, he remains a crucial figure. Fabian Delph has also become a key man at full-back, while Kyle Walker's energy and pace down the right flank is another huge part of City's game.

There are some things that just cannot be explained and City's results in Liverpool are an anomaly that hangs over the team whenever they make the short trip to the red half of Merseyside.

City have not won at Anfield since May 2003, losing 15 of their 21 trips to the stadium during the Premier League era. Last season, Guardiola's team suffered their first league defeat at Anfield and were also crushed 3-0 in the Champions League in front of The Kop.

So they will travel to Liverpool this weekend knowing that they must draw a line under their losing history at Anfield and find a way to banish the negative thoughts that come with such a dismal sequence of results.

Salah scored three goals in four games against Manchester City last season and his performances against Guardiola's team were some of his best of a stunning campaign. But the Egyptian has started slowly this season, scoring just three times so far, and he goes into Sunday's game without a goal in three matches.

It is hardly a barren run but when compared to Salah's output last season, it is perhaps a worry when placed alongside his below-par performances. Salah has yet to hit his stride and he was poor against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last week.

Liverpool need him firing on all cylinders against City if they are win.

There is an old adage that you cannot win a league title without a reliable goalkeeper. After struggling between the sticks with the unconvincing Simon Mignolet and Loris Karius, Liverpool finally sorted their keeper situation by signing Alisson Becker from Roma. The Brazil number one has given Liverpool a genuinely commanding presence in goal.

Ederson, Alisson's understudy for Brazil, made a similar impact at City last season after arriving from Benfica to replace the erratic Claudio Bravo. A good goalkeeper gives a team confidence and a sense of security, and although both Alisson and Ederson take risks, they have both made their teams stronger by their presence.

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Liverpool go into the game having lost their momentum on the back of three outings without a win. The Champions League defeat against Napoli in Italy on Wednesday, when they conceded in the 90th minute, may have undermined the team's morale. How Liverpool respond to that setback will be an interesting element to Sunday's game.

Despite going top of the league last weekend, Man City have also yet to hit the heights of last season, so they do not travel to Anfield in peerless form either.

It is a tough one to call, but with Salah struggling for goals and Liverpool without a win in three, City will believe they can end their Anfield hoodoo.

Prediction: Liverpool 1, Man City 2

Manchester City won't face a tougher game all season than Sunday's trip to Liverpool, Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan has told ESPN FC.

The Premier League champions suffered their only away defeat at Anfield last season in January and were then thrashed 3-0 in the first of their Champions League quarterfinal in April.

City have a terrible record at Liverpool, losing 12 of their last 17 visits, but Gundogan insists that the City players will be relishing the opportunity to end their dreadful run.

"It's very tough, probably the toughest away game of the season in the Premier League," the Germany international told ESPN FC. "But as a player there is not much more that you can achieve than playing these type of games, because when you play them or when the atmosphere is like that, you know it's a big thing.

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"So there's nothing better than playing these type of games. Although you're much more nervous before these type of games than in others maybe, even then after your first successful pass, first successful tackle or your first good dribble, you get more and more confidence. This confidence helps you a lot to achieve your target."

City go into Sunday's clash with a slight lead at the top of the Premier League, just ahead of Liverpool on goal difference. But they have lost their last three games against their Merseyside rivals, conceding nine goals, and Gundogan warned they can't afford to make any mistakes with a forward line of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino ready to punish any errors.

"You have to be careful because, especially their front three, any single mistake you make they can punish you so quickly -- so we have to be very careful," he added. "Last season we lost the game unfortunately at Anfield in the Premier League because of two or three mistakes in the game and they scored three times out of three mistakes.

"So that's the new target for this game: to leave these mistakes. We know we are always able to score, we scored already three times in the last season away which is also not normal to score three goals at Anfield and we will try to repeat and it can be a great game for us."

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Gundogan, 27, is a doubt for the trip after suffering a hamstring injury which forced him off in Tuesday's Champions League victory over Hoffenheim. But the former Borussia Dortmund player is still hoping to catch up with his old boss Jurgen Klopp -- a manager he worked under for four years, winning the Bundesliga title and reaching a Champions League final.

"It's always special to meet him ... it's always very nice and I get a big hug from this big guy," Gundogan said. "We have a nice quick chat, unfortunately we don't have that much time to speak about stuff but it's always very good to see him because he's such a great guy, such a humble guy, and as manager he can show he'll be successful. I had a lot of success with him at Dortmund, so [he's] always good to be around."

Paul Scholes says he is sick of Jose Mourinho's moaning and has challenged the Manchester United boss to restore confidence in his players.

United have made their worst start to a Premier League season since David Moyes was in charge and are on their worst run at home since 1990.

Ahead of the crucial clash with Newcastle at Old Trafford on Saturday, Scholes insists the issue is confidence rather than a lack of talent in the squad.

"Unfortunately because the form is not great, he's chopping and changing, he has no idea what his best team is, he has no idea what his best system is, and this is after over two years," Scholes told BBC 5Live.

"I'm sick of him moaning about what he hasn't got, when I think he really should be concentrating on what he has got.

"I think he's got some real quality in the squad who are very low in confidence."

Speaking to BT Sport on Tuesday night, Scholes said he was "surprised" Mourinho was not sacked after the 3-1 defeat at West Ham.

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The former England midfielder believes the Portuguese coach should get more time but says his players -- repeatedly criticised by Mourinho this season -- need a boost if they are going to stop the rot.

"Jose over the years has been a brilliant coach, his record suggests that, he's been one of the very best," Scholes said.

"I think now, I'd like to see him stay.

"Take this -- which I think is probably the biggest challenge of his career -- and show us what a good coach he is.

"I've been there and it's horrible. These players look like they're really struggling for confidence."

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