Friday, 11 April 2014

Battle between Rodgers and Pellegrini key to success

The stage is set for a winner takes all battle on Sunday as Liverpool and Manchester City go toe to toe at Anfield with the Premier League title potentially on the line.

While on the field of play there are so many intriguing battles to keep a watchful eye the most interesting of all is set to take place on the sidelines.

They may not be pupil and mentor but the managerial style of Brendan Rodgers and Manuel Pellegrini is very similar. Both are attack minded with a focus on possession that do not appear to betray their principles no matter the occasion.

On their visit to the Etihad in December, Liverpool stuck to their principles and surprised City with an attacking performance. They are set to be awarded the same courtesy on Sunday with Pellegrini vowing not to play for a draw.

Rodgers is the young upstart, a novice that has never finished higher than 7th in the Premier League but one that has taken a fallen giant to the brink of glory. Just five years into his career the former Swansea man is pushing for a title.

Pellegrini meanwhile is the old school manager, the veteran that lacks the pedigree of other more established names. One that prior to his arrival in Manchester still carried the “potential” tag despite being 60 years old.

Nine years in Spain failed to yield a major trophy however six months into his stint at the Etihad Pellegrini has already broke that duck.  

Rodgers has the momentum, Pellegrini has the experience.

The stats are interesting, Rodgers boast a 70% win rate this season, a huge increase on the 42% rate he achieved last season.

Last year Rodgers failed to beat Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Manchester United or indeed City over 10 games winning just one game, Spurs, against sides that finished above them.

This season however Rodgers has shown that can adapt, grow and learn. The improvements are immense, they have beaten Arsenal, Manchester United (2), Everton, and Spurs (2).   

There has been set-backs, this time round they lost away to both City and Chelsea rather than the points they picked up last year, however Rodgers will point to key decisions going against him rather than a drop in the level of performances.

While Pellegrini may be in his first season but at almost 71% he already has a better win rate than Rodgers.

He has shown too that he is quick to learn. The former Malaga man struggled to pick up points on the road at the start of his reign however his side are now unbeaten away on the road since November.

Pellegrini also appears to have a found a winning formula as only Norwich and Arsenal have done better second time round against City while defeats to Chelsea away was turned into a victory at home, a draw away to Southampton also became three points in front of their own fans.

Against sides in the top seven he has managed wins over Spurs (2), Arsenal, Liverpool, Everton, Manchester United (2) and Chelsea showing that his much-maligned time at Real Madrid while ending trophy-less did give him the skills to manage the big occasion.

On Sunday there will be a number of elements to control. Motivation, pressure, the players and the bench.

The motivation element is clear. IF Liverpool win they move another step closer to that elusive first Premier League title while if City win they move 2 points behind the leaders but with two games in hand.

The pressure side of the game will be more difficult to control. In the red corner, Rodgers has shown that he is not afraid to change things around if they are not going to plan and can often make changes inside the opening third of a game. 

Unlike City, Liverpool do need to win, a draw would take destiny out of their hands. The management of the game and the need to go for a win will need to be controlled by Rodgers.

Rodgers could find himself with a big decision to make, namely playing for the point and letting others give them a helping hand.

On the blue side of the pitch, Pellegrini tends to have faith in the same players. It is rather interesting to note that he has kept faith with his players and cup games aside has not rotated in the league.

The player know their roles and they have achieved success in recent season so they will have the big game experience that Liverpool could be lacking. With the luxury of knowing that a point will suffice, Pellegrini does have the option to forgo his attacking instincts and switch to a more controlled counter-attacking style.

The game has the potential to classic and how it shapes up will have much to do with the men in the dugouts. It promises to be fascinating, on an off the pitch.

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