It’s time to settle the scores between Manchester City and Liverpool. The moment both teams were drawn against each other in Nyon, the battle was destined to go down the wire. Liverpool drew first blood last Wednesday, but there will be 90 more minutes to decide who progresses to the semi final of Europe’s elite football competition.
Off the back of an indifferent weekend for both teams, City and Liverpool; who are the surviving English teams in the competition will file out against each other in the UEFA Champions League quarter final second leg in what could be described as a make or mar affair.
Manchester City play exhilarating football with great passion and unmatched talents but the last couple of days have been a punishing routine for the players. They need to breathe some fresh air as they continue their surge for an unprecedented treble, but standing in their way are Liverpool who are having their best run in the Champions League after almost a decade.
In the Champions League, you definitely want your second leg at home and that’s the greatest advantage City have over the reds. That might be a mere consolation for City though, after all, Liverpool have proven two times this year that they could match City’s breathtaking football with speed and counter pressing.
And to think of that 5-0 hammering of the reds at the Etihad back in September? Truth is, we’ll never know the outcome of that game if Sadio Mane hadn’t been sent off.
Having lost by 3 goals to nil in the first leg, the mission of the second leg becomes clear and that is to rattle Liverpool. They must either win by 4 goals to nil, score more or even win by 3 goals to nil to take the game into extra time and perhaps penalties.
Whichever option Guardiola and his men might prefer, hitting Liverpool with early goals will do a lot as it will help unsettle the reds. Besides, the inclusion of Sergio Aguero (who has a knack for scoring against Liverpool) or even a strike partnership with Gabriel Jesus will unnerve the shaky defense line of Liverpool.
For Manchester City to go through, they will almost certainly need to create an intimidating atmosphere as Anfield, lead from the first half and keep a clean sheet to nullify the away goal rule.
While the Citizens will be inspired playing the return leg at home, the reds too will be pretty excited about the away goal rule. A 3-0 lead might be easy to turn around by City but remember Liverpool didn’t concede at home. Would you bet against them not to score at the Etihad?
Besides, never in their illustrious European history have they thrown away a 3-0 first leg advantage.
With the 3-goal advantage from the first leg, approach is what matters most for Jurgen Klopp. The German is known for going toe-to-toe with any opposition but if the reds could show that kind of concentration at Anfield, why not put in more caution at the Etihad.
Jurgen Klopp and his men are aware that this tie isn’t over. Memories of the 5-0 thumping Liverpool suffered on their last visit to the Etihad last September should also serve to focus their minds. The German seem to have returned the Merseyside club to where they belong but it remains to be seen how far he’ll lead them. Until they make their way further in the competition, tonight’s game will be Klopp’s biggest test this term.
Its possible Liverpool could well defy the odds remarkably again.