Man City host Liverpool at the Etihad tonight for their Champions League quarter-final second leg. Man City have it all to do after Liverpool won the first leg 3-0.
I think it will be very interesting to see how Man City go about playing this game. Obviously, they’ll have to get at Liverpool and attack them because they need to score at least three goals if they are to have any chance of progressing to the semi-final. But they can’t go all-out-attack either, and have to make sure they keep Liverpool out at all costs. The task is difficult for them now, but if Liverpool were to score once, City would need five. That would make a difficult task almost impossible.
They’ll more than likely go about this game like they do any other. They’re a very offensive team, and Pep Guardiola doesn’t have to change much for his team to attack. They’ll be hoping to get at Liverpool tonight, while hoping their defenders all have fantastic games and manage to keep Liverpool out. I don’t think scoring three goals is the most difficult part for them; doing that while stopping Liverpool from scoring is.
City’s confidence won’t have been helped by Saturday’s defeat to Man Utd. They were supposed to be having a celebration at the Etihad, and rubbing it in the faces of their biggest rivals when they won the league, but they let a two-goal lead slip and fell to a 3-2 defeat. They can take some encouragement from their first-half performance in that game though. They were 2-0 up at the break, while it could have easily been four or five. If they had the same scenario tonight they would be delighted.
They have shown us how good they are this season, and they definitely can’t be written off. They beat Liverpool 5-0 at the Etihad earlier in the season – although the Reds had Sadio Mane sent off – and they can look at that game and know that they’re more than capable of a repeat of that performance. But, after two defeats in a row, the players could be starting to doubt themselves and they could find it difficult again tonight. They’re going to need to be as good as they have been in any other game this season and they will need a huge amount of luck. But they shouldn’t be written off just yet, because we have seen just how good this team can be.
Pep Guardiola said: “The only way to play good football is to be positive.
“To go through you have to make the perfect game, create chances and concede few chances. The chances we receive, we have to defend well.
“We have 90 minutes and anything can happen. All we are going to do is try.
“We have 90 minutes plus extra time and what we have shown this year – even in the last game – is we can create a lot of chances in the last few minutes.”
When asked if City’s mental state has been affected after two defeats in a row, he said: “I don’t know.
“But, if we are not able to cope with that psychologically, it will be a good lesson for the future.
“It is a test. Football, like life, is a challenge.”
It will be interesting to see who Guardiola deploys at left-back tonight. Aymeric Laporte hasn’t looked convincing there, so we may see Danilo starting. Fabian Delph is also an option. Oleksandr Zinchenko has also played there, but it would be a big ask for him to play in a game of this magnitude and try to keep Mo Salah – if he plays – quiet. Sergio Aguero seems to be fine after Ashley Young’s poor tackle in the Manchester derby. John Stones will more than likely remain out, while there are doubts over Danilo, who wasn’t seen in training.
Liverpool go into this game knowing that they’re the favourites to progress. They’re in the driving seat of the tie, and have the semi-final in their grasp. They’re so, so close to it after Wednesday’s big 3-0 win, and it would be a huge shock if they didn’t get through. But they still have a big job on their hands tonight. Tonight’s game is going to be difficult, and they’ll have to be really good again or there could be an upset on the cards.
It’ll be interesting to see how they set up. Jurgen Klopp says they have to try and win the game, but surely they’ll be trying to keep it tight. Keeping it tight at the back and leaving City with little time and space when they come forward will surely be the way they’ll set up tonight. Hitting on the break with their pace in attack could destroy City.
I would be very surprised if they went out there and tried to park the bus though. That’s just not how Jurgen Klopp operates, and he’ll be hoping Liverpool can really get at City and cause them huge problems at the back. If Liverpool were to score first tonight, the City players’ heads would really drop, and we could see the Reds hitting a few past them. If they do score first, it’s game over in my opinion. I think a five-goal deficit would just be too much for City to come back from, while trying to keep Liverpool out at the same time. But if Liverpool found themselves a couple down at half-time, we could see a very interesting second half.
I was really surprised at how the first leg went, and I would have never imagined Liverpool racing into a three goal lead in the first half. They’re in such a good position now, and it would be a disaster if they didn’t get through. The fitness of Mo Salah could be absolutely huge for them. You can never back against him scoring, and if he’s on the pitch from the start tonight City will be really worried. I think he will start, because Klopp’s words about him have been positive.
Jurgen Klopp said: “We can go through all scenarios – they score early, we score early, all that stuff – but it is not to plan like this. I can tell the boys ‘Score early!’ but I’m not sure that really helps.
“We have to think about football – what we have to do, where we have to do it. This is half-time. It was the same at half-time in Anfield: the game is not over.
“We were in the lead, nothing else. Being in the lead is not winning. We are still in the lead but we didn’t win so far. We need a little bit more from this game.
“I always see it as two legs are one game.
“We are in a 3-0 lead. That is better than I would have expected. If you would have told me 10 days ago that this was possible I would have said: ‘Don’t think so.’ I am not putting pressure on ourselves. We are so close.
“Our situation is not the easiest situation in world football, we are not flying with a full squad, but we stick together and we want to go as far as possible.”
Liverpool are hopeful that Mo Salah, Andy Robertson and Alberto Moreno will be fit. Emre Can misses out with injury, while Jordan Henderson is banned after being booked in the first leg. Roberto Firmino, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Trent Alexander-Arnold will all more than likely start after being rested against Everton on Saturday.
I’m really looking forward to this game. I think it will be very interesting if Man City manage to score a couple without reply. But I’m not sure they have what it takes to prevent Liverpool from scoring. If Liverpool do manage to score early, I think it will be game over. But City definitely have a chance and as I have already said, they can’t be written off already.
The team news will be out at 6:45pm and I’ll be doing my best to get that up here as well. I’ll miss the first 15 minutes or so because I’ll be making my way home from work, but after that I’ll be watching it and you can follow the action with me on Twitter. Enjoy what will hopefully be a great game.