Liverpool face a tall order as they travel to Manchester City tonight, looking to retain their EFL Cup crown after last season’s domestic cup successes.
However, what stands in their way is a team Jurgen Klopp will be well familiar with, as his tactical war with Pep Guardiola is reignited once more outside of Premier League combat.
This makes for an intriguing matchup so early in the competition, as it pits the only two clubs to have won the competition in the last five years against each other.
Although that dominance is seen through the four won by the Cityzens in the years preceding last season, it still marks two of the best sides in the country clashing.
Having already faced them once this season, the Reds ran out 1-0 winners at Anfield in what has comfortably been the apex of their campaign thus far.
Showing defensive solidity throughout, it will always take an almighty task to silence the free-scoring Erling Haaland.
What will increase the difficulty tenfold is that the Norwegian has been rested throughout this World Cup period, so Klopp must fight fire with fire.
To quell the threat of the hulking marksman, he must surely recall his own equally-rested titan at the back in Joel Matip given the absence of World Cup star Ibrahima Konate and the likely fatigue of Virgil van Dijk.
The 31-year-old has had a career blighted by injuries on Merseyside, yet still remains a “dominant” defender when fit, as dubbed by Sami Hyypia.
Having been confirmed available by Pep Lijnders, he must recapture his form in what will be his toughest personal test this season.
Despite featuring sparingly this season, he will draw upon last season’s performances as his benchmark for success.
Across that campaign, he recorded a 7.35 average rating in which he kept 17 clean sheets, aided by his 1.4 interceptions, 1.5 tackles and 2.9 clearances per game, via Sofascore.
Not only will Haaland demand the best of him defensively – given how he already boasts 18 Premier League goals in just 13 appearances – but Matip’s ability on the ball will be imperative to bypassing the City press.
That year also saw the £100k-per-week brute record a 90% dribble success rate paired with an 89% pass completion rate.
Would you start Joel Matip vs Man City?
Any success that Liverpool might have in this fixture will hinge on the African centre-back, so Klopp must start him tonight.