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Top two troubles: With kick-off looming, Manchester City and Liverpool have issues to address

They battled for the Premier League title in exhilarating fashion last season, with Manchester City seeing off Liverpool by just a single point.

The Reds proceeded to win the Champions League shortly afterwards but, as the Community Shield showed, both sides have significant issues to address ahead of the new campaign. 

Sportsmail‘s Jack Gaughan and Dominic King look at the problems facing Manchester City and Liverpool. 

Manchester City and Liverpool both have problems to address as the season gets underway

Manchester City – By Jack Gaughan 

1) Potential back pain 

Despite three different options, there are definite imperfections in the left back area. 

Oleksandr Zinchenko goes into this season with a new contract and new shirt number (11) but while his rise has been astonishing, Pep Guardiola will hold reservations defensively. Zinchenko was led a merry dance by Mohamed Salah at Wembley and there is still work to be done on his positioning.

Benjamin Mendy is working overtime to return from his latest setback and is in Manchester to complete rehabilitation from an arthroscopy in May. Angelino’s pre-season was inauspicious and he will only act as cover. 

On the other flank, incoming Joao Cancelo from Juventus will push England Kyle Walker, who has been received very public instructions from Guardiola over the last fortnight.

Oleksandr Zinchenko's defending will be a cause of concern for Pep Guardiola

Oleksandr Zinchenko’s defending will be a cause of concern for Pep Guardiola

2) Standing in for Sane 

City insist they will not look to sign a replacement for Leroy Sane should Bayern Munich bow to the financial demands required to land their primary summer target.

Sane should cost north of £135million – which would make him one of the most expensive players in history – and while the German has his problems with Guardiola, City might be slightly light going forward without him given the amount of games ahead.

Granted, the other five are not took shabby. Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva and Riyad Mahrez are a frightening prospect. This is a huge campaign for Mahrez, who underwhelmed last year.

If Leroy Sane departs for Bayern Munich, Manchester City would be slightly light in attack

If Leroy Sane departs for Bayern Munich, Manchester City would be slightly light in attack

3) Fernandinho conundrum 

As it stands, Fernandinho is being viewed as City’s fourth central defender. While the Premier League champions could be tempted to move for a centre half before Thursday’s deadline if a presentable opportunity arose, the general feeling is they probably won’t. 

And that is an issue for Guardiola, who believes they need another senior professional alongside John Stones, Aymeric Laporte and Nicolas Otamendi in order to compete on all four fronts. Stones’ form has been of concern, although he performed admirably against Liverpool.

Experienced midfielder Fernandinho is currently being viewed as City's fourth centre-back

Experienced midfielder Fernandinho is currently being viewed as City’s fourth centre-back

4) Rotate to progress

Cancelo’s switch from Juventus will see Danilo head in the other direction but if City do not make any further signings then Guardiola may well change his philosophy this season. No new centre half or winger in the coming days will leave them lighter than last season, one in which Guardiola picked fiercely strong starting XIs in every competition. 

Five forwards might still sound excessive but possibly not for a squad that will get through upwards of 60 games again. Rotation will be more important than ever before.

Guardiola may have to change his approach and rotate his side more often this campaign

Guardiola may have to change his approach and rotate his side more often this campaign

5) Pressure on the new boy 

Rodri needs to bed in quickly – particularly if Fernandinho does become an auxiliary centre half – because the pivot is integral to the way in which City play. The £62.8million signing, a club record, is feeling his way into the system at the moment but will be buoyed by Kevin De Bruyne’s positivity at Wembley. ‘He’s a perfect fit for us,’ the Belgian said.

Managing the game time of Phil Foden will also be key. Foden, who Guardiola claimed is the most exciting prospect he’s ever coached, has been promised more minutes and is desperate to kick on in bigger matches.

Rodri, who joined from £62.8million from Atletico Madrid, will need to bed in quickly for City

Rodri, who joined from £62.8million from Atletico Madrid, will need to bed in quickly for City

Liverpool – By Dominic King 

1) Which back four?  

The only clean sheet Liverpool kept in pre-season was against Tranmere on July 11. They conceded a number of silly goals and the trend continued in the first half at Wembley, as David Silva and Raheem Sterling sprang a flimsy offside trap.

Klopp started Trent Alexander-Arnold at right-back on Sunday with Joe Gomez alongside Virgil van Dijk in the middle. Alexander-Arnold, though, was rusty and things improved when Joel Matip – a figure of such consistency – was introduced in the second-half.

It could be that Gomez is used on the right against Norwich and Klopp restores the partnership of Matip, who scored Liverpool’s equaliser against Manchester City, and Van Dijk that was so obstinate late last season.

Joel Matip may return to the heart of the Liverpool defence alongside Virgil van Dijk

Joel Matip may return to the heart of the Liverpool defence alongside Virgil van Dijk

2) Clean the rust from Alisson 

It must be emphasised that Alisson Becker is one of the top three goalkeepers in the world. When Liverpool needed him last season, he was there and his crowning moment was an unflappable performance in the Champions League final.

But he only returned to training eight days ago and in the two games he has played so far – a friendly against Lyon and the Community Shield – the £64million man has looked off the pace; his passing and distribution was out of sync at Wembley.

Liverpool signed Adrian, the former West Ham goalkeeper, on Monday to provide cover for Alisson following Simon Mignolet’s £6million sale to Club Bruges. He will be expected to help rouse the Brazilian immediately.

Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson has showed signs of rustiness against Lyon and City

Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson has showed signs of rustiness against Lyon and City

3) Remind Mo to pass! 

Mohamed Salah was superb against City, dynamic and strong. It should really have been a match-winning display but, on this occasion, his shooting lacked accuracy. The Egyptian can cause tremendous damage when he cuts in from right to left but he doesn’t always have to go for goal.

He might be Liverpool’s most prolific scorer but he had a tendency last season to do it alone too often and it would be folly if he put his own thirst for goals ahead of better-placed team-mates. If he raises his head, Salah might be an even more formidable proposition.

Liverpool star Mohamed Salah must learn that on some occasions he should pass more often

Liverpool star Mohamed Salah must learn that on some occasions he should pass more often

4) No main Mane 

Sadio Mane, the dashing Senegal forward, only returned to Melwood at 4pm on Monday afternoon. After completing a season on July 17 that last 359 days, a two-and-a-half week break is not going to be enough for him to recharge.

Mane was outstanding last season, a PFA Player of the Year candidate. He can hit those heights again but how Klopp manages him in these early stages – regardless of how much the German wants him to play – will be crucial.

Sadio Mane, who was outstanding last season, has only just returned to training

Sadio Mane, who was outstanding last season, has only just returned to training

5) Manage the workload 

Liverpool have the ability to be champions but they also have the potential for the most demanding schedule. Klopp has been careful with his training schedule this summer – they only did double sessions in Evian, France last week as opposed to trebles – and won’t push buttons too soon.

Coping with the travel, the extra games and the focus will be just as important as coping with the threat on the pitch. If he finds answers for all the above, this season has many possibilities.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp will have to be careful with how he manages his side's workload

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp will have to be careful with how he manages his side’s workload

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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