Erling Haaland has already scored 15 goals for Manchester City this season, including three hat-tricks, but Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp will give every City player equal attention.
Take the wealthiest club in the world, add the best striker on the planet, and what do you get? An unstoppable force.
Or so the Premier League collectively feels right now, as Erling Haaland blitzes through English football like a kid in a candy store, plucking records on his rampage like they were sweets from a jar. He has three hat tricks already, has failed to score only once in his 12 matches for the Blues, and is on course to rewrite the manual on the art of scoring with 20 goals so far, barely a fifth of the way through the campaign.
Only Bournemouth have kept him quiet…though City still scored four that day, and there’s the issue, according to Jurgen Klopp. He can try to smother the Norwegian, use Virgil van Dijk to shackle him, but that only creates problems elsewhere.
Like always when you play against the best striker in the world, you have to make sure he doesn’t get too many balls and that is what you have to defend before you come into the challenge with himself,” the Liverpool manager said. “But against City the problem is if you close Haaland down with too many players, then you open up gaps for all the other world-class players and that does not make life easier.
“So it is a tough task, all the things we have to do on Sunday will be tough but it is possible as well, we all know that as well. It is a football problem but we try to find solutions.”
It would be easier of course, if Liverpool’s defence had not been so vulnerable this season, if Virgil van Dijk had maintained the form which made him the undisputed best centre-half in the world.
Erling Haaland made Andy Robertson look like he’d run straight into a wall during the Community Shield
Going into the clash of the titans on Sunday though, and not even the Reds own fans would claim that their iconic defender is back to his imperious best, or the defence (and midfield) around him has rediscovered the solidity which made them the best in the Premier League over the past four years.
Klopp though, argued that it is never a case of one vs one, that his entire team, from back to front, must contribute to the defensive effort. “There will be moments when a defender, maybe Virgil or whoever, is in a one-vs-one situation with Erling Haaland, but this story I don’t understand in modern football,” he explained.
“It’s not like we play man-marking all over the pitch and the only player Haaland will face is Virgil. They played against each other and there were moments when Virgil got the better of him and I remember other moments. I remember the situation when Robbo tried to get him off the ball and ran into him and it looks like he ran against a wall! We have a pitch of 106 by 65 metres and we talk about a battle of one-vs-one between two players and that makes no sense.
Klopp knows all too well the damage the brilliant striker can do – he scored against the Reds for Salzburg at Anfield as a teenager back in 2019 – but he knows his side must work as a unit to stop him: “He didn’t start against us (in 2019), he was injured and came on and scored anyway!
Physically he sets new standards, the combination of being really physical and technical with sensational awareness, his orientation on the pitch is exceptional.
The package makes him special, but we know what we have to do. It is a football problem. There are moments where you have to suffer but there are others where you have to be dominant as well – finding the right balance is the challenge.