Chinks can be found in Jurgen Klopp’s armor.

Daniel Sturridge’s late wallop against Chelsea last weekend concealed an uncharacteristic bluntness in Liverpool’s attack. Then, on Wednesday, the Reds were dealt their first defeat of the season by Carlo Ancelotti’s well-drilled Napoli side.

Lorenzo Insigne’s midweek winner was in the final minute of normal time, but deserved. Napoli took a positive approach, while denying Liverpool a shot on target in a Champions League fixture for the first time since February 2006.

Here are three things Manchester City could adopt from Napoli’s setup to nab three points from Sunday’s showdown on Merseyside:

Three at the back

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On paper, Napoli deployed a defensive quartet against Liverpool. In reality, Mario Rui’s unremitting explorations down the left meant there was often a trio of Kalidou Koulibaly, Raul Albiol, and Nikola Maksimovic left protecting David Ospina’s goal.

“We defended with four as always, only the construction changed from behind. I put three center-backs, with the two midfielders and Mario Rui very wide to better manage the start of the game and avoid the strong pressure from them,” Ancelotti explained, as reported by Calcio Mercato.

It worked. Koulibaly nullified Mohamed Salah from his position on the left of the three, while Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane battled ineffectively as the hosts’ backline matched them man for man; Andrew Robertson recorded his side’s one key pass throughout the 90 minutes. Liverpool were silenced.

Pep Guardiola has previously used a back-three against Liverpool, but with unconvincing results: Nicolas Otamendi was eviscerated by Salah in the early stages of the clubs’ first meeting of the 2017-18 campaign until Mane’s sending off effectively led to City’s 5-0 win. However, with more conservatism from the wing-back than Benjamin Mendy exercised that day, and greater athleticism brought in place of Otamendi via Aymeric Laporte, Guardiola can successfully replicate Napoli’s foundation.

A back-three of Laporte, John Stones, and Kyle Walker should be considered.

Two deeper midfielders

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Allan was sensational during the visit from Liverpool, with his unfussy, barrel-chested industry effectively forging a wall in front of the Napoli defense. He bested his colleagues for tackles (five) and seldom risked possession with long balls, resulting in a passing accuracy of just under 95 percent – the best success rate on the pitch.

Fernandinho – one of the finest defensive midfielders in Europe – is capable of fulfilling those duties but, if Guardiola is to mirror aspects of Napoli’s gameplan, he needs someone to assume Marek Hamsik’s withdrawn slot.

No player touched the ball more times than Hamsik (106) on Wednesday. The Slovakian used his tactical intelligence excellently, providing an option to his teammates as he drifted into space. He was then more expansive than Allan with his distribution as he tried to unleash Napoli’s pacier ranks on the counter.

Given the expected absences of Ilkay Gundogan and Fabian Delph, Guardiola would need to shuffle the pack to replicate Hamsik’s role. David Silva’s underrated tenacity and technical gifts can be utilized there, with the more advanced position in the midfield three occupied by season standout Bernardo Silva or Kevin De Bruyne, who is in contention to play after missing nine matches with a knee injury. Stones has also been sporadically dropped into a midfield anchor role this season, can be a decisive passer, and could help shore up the middle with Fernandinho. A heated northwest spat certainly doesn’t seem the correct occasion to hand Phil Foden his first Premier League start.

Pin back Alexander-Arnold and Robertson

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Napoli’s Rui hit more crosses than Trent Alexander-Arnold and Robertson combined on Wednesday. Liverpool’s celebrated, buccaneering full-backs were preoccupied by Napoli’s marauding play down the flanks and with midfielders that sat wide when the young Reds did look to move upfield.

Guardiola has asked his midfielders to stretch out when facing teams that field wing-backs, such as when De Bruyne and David Silva expertly sat wide in the trip to Chelsea just over a year ago. Given the attacking traits of Alexander-Arnold and Robertson, City could do the same against Liverpool. If Guardiola commits with a three-man defensive base and tries to dominate the midfield (perhaps in a fluid 3-5-2 shape), those who could move wide and behind whichever full-back has joined the attack could be David Silva and any one of Bernardo Silva, Raheem Sterling, or Leroy Sane. The greater energy Guardiola has brought to Sergio Aguero’s game can also bring width, just as Arkadiusz Milik did at the Stadio San Paolo.

Napoli were ferocious on the break in the Champions League clash and, with spare attackers lurking wide or speedily spreading play behind Robertson and Alexander-Arnold, City can be similarly potent and claim their first Anfield win since 2003.

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