Manchester City faces an uphill task in their bid to secure a spot in the semi-finals of the Champions League against Liverpool tonight.
Pep Guardiola and his lads are undergoing the worst spell of the season so far after losing the last 2 and conceding six goals in the process. City’s baptism of fire at Anfield, in the first leg, came as a shock to many football fans. However, a golden opportunity to humiliate their arch-rivals and wrap up the title was open to them on Saturday. But the manner in which City capitulated to lose the game after racing to a two-goal lead in the first-half further underlines their current predicament.
Across the Mersey River, Liverpool produced a matured display in the derby to secure a hard-fought draw that strengthened their chase for a top 4 finish. You can’t help but admire the Reds approach and mentality going into the second leg. Jürgen Klopp has hammered it home to his boys to see the game at Etihad as a fresh challenge.
Record signing Van Dijk also echoed the thoughts of his gaffer in the press conference when he said “We should build on what happened in the first leg – that’s what we want to do and will try to do as well. I feel great, and I’m looking forward to it. I’m excited.”
Over the years, we’ve seen so many comebacks in football, and most recently was the Barcelona comeback against PSG in the Champions League. We’ve seen the Cityzens blow teams away when they hit top gear and are capable of doing the same tonight. On Saturday, Raheem Sterling missed a hat-trick of chances that would have put that game to bed. With the return of Aguero to the squad, they look more deadly in-front of goal. However, the question is – can they stop the highest scoring team (31 goals) in the competition from registering a goal or two? That remains the Achilles hill. The Reds have scored in all their trips in Europe this season. A goal at the Etihad means City will need to score five goals which speak volumes of the enormity of the task.
Statistically, the Reds have an edge with only one loss in recent meetings (D2 W5). That loss was at the Etihad where they walloped Liverpool 5-0 albeit with a controversial red card issued to Sadio Mane. One can safely bet that City fans will be hoping thunder strikes twice.
Verdict: Guardiola has come out to say they need a perfect game to see them through to the last four. Even though it’s possible, I doubt if they can stop Liverpool from scoring with or without Salah. I respect what they have achieved this season, but they’ll have to wait for another campaign to end the hoodoo in European football. Liverpool to qualify!