After the emphatic checkmate of last season, Jurgen Klopp has wasted no time in making the first aggressive move in this season's chess match with Pep Guardiola.
The Liverpool boss is on the verge of picking up Bayern Munich star Thiago Alcantara for a bargain £27million, a signing that gives a splash of colour to a midfield which is efficient and effective but rarely rises above functional, especially compared to the creativity on show at Manchester City.
The Anfield outfit's playmaking comes from full backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson, occasionally aided by Virgil Van Dijk, with their dynamite front three able to cause havoc in the final third.
That has been the recipe for their success, but Thiago adds another dimension to the champions - he is a ball-winner as well as an initiator of attacks.
His status is underlined by Guardiola's own statement when he took over at Bayern Munich. He told the Bayern hierarchy he wanted "Thiago or nothing", and they responded by landing him.
The rivalry between City and Liverpool has developed into an arms race in the last three seasons, each seeking a strategic advantage over the other.
Three years ago, Liverpool's front three of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah was a match for the Blues' trio of Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane.
City had the edge in defence as long as Vincent Kompany was fit, while their midfield was the big difference as they romped to their first league title under Guardiola.
Liverpool made a huge step forward by signing Van Dijk, who became the kingpin of their defence, just as Kompany was moving towards the exit.
In the 2018-19 season, there was nothing between the teams, with City's deeper squad perhaps giving them an edge. Van Dijk firmed up the Liverpool defence, and their front three were frightening - while the midfield did its job of penning in teams and working the ball to the creators out wide.
The quality of City's midfield, with Kevin De Bruyne the key figure, has not wavered in the last three seasons, while the attacking trio has continued to blitz teams.
It was the loss of Kompany, followed by long-term injury to Aymeric Laporte, which knocked City backwards last season, along with their nasty habit of missing good chances at key times in matches.
In terms of the front three, there was little to choose between Liverpool and City last season, other than the fact the Merseysiders were more clinical at important moments.
City's midfield remained the more attractive and creative of the two clubs, even if Liverpool's engine room was perfectly tuned for the way the team played.
It was the defence which gave Liverpool a big advantage, with Van Dijk ever-present while City's best centre back Laporte was out for most of the season and Guardiola was forced to resort to playing Fernandinho at centre back as John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi struggled.
Now Liverpool, in taking Thiago, have their own De Bruyne, a midfield dynamo who works hard and unlocks defences, so they have effectively negated City's last remaining advantage.
The Blues need to match that by adding the final piece to their defence, whether it be Kalidou Koulibaly, Diego Gimenez or another player who can give them Van Dijk-style dominance and leadership.