Photo Credit: Independent.ie
By Israel Igiri
All eyes will be on the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday as Manchester City seek to stage a great comeback against Liverpool in the second leg of their quarter-final tie. They face an uphill task of reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League after Liverpool delivered a superb performance in the first leg to take a 3-0 lead and put one foot in the last four of Europe’s premier club competition. As such, City’s chances of reaching the last four for the second time in their history are slim after failing to score a crucial away goal in last week’s emphatic defeat at Anfield.
The Citizens have been the standout performers in England this season, convincingly demolishing teams. But results in recent days are beginning to suggest that fatigue is setting in. they have lost back-to-back matches for the first time this season and the manner of the defeats will give Pep Guardiola a cause for concern.
Guardiola will be able to call on Sergio Aguero once again, after the attacker returned to action on Sunday in their loss to Manchester United. The Argentine’s return will give the Catalan gaffer great hope going into the match as the 29-year-old could have a huge impact on the game tonight. The home side will surely be looking at Aguero, who is the most natural goal-scorer in the squad deliver the goals.
While the Reds are in the driving seat, they will come under intense pressure on Tuesday from all flanks and have to play on the back foot for a long period of the game. They are likely to create chances on the counter-attack, they must therefore take them. However, the composure and discipline of the away side’s defence spearheaded by Virgil van Dijk would really count if Jurgen Klopp’s men are to keep City’s chances to a minimum at the other end of the pitch and then go through on the night.
Mohammed Salah is in a battle to be fit for the game after being substituted in the first leg due to a suspected groin injury and also missing out on the Merseyside derby against Everton on Saturday. Whether he will feature in the game remains to be seen as a late decision will be taken by Klopp. If the Egyptian was to miss out, it would be a huge boost for the home side.
Despite the convincing victory in the first leg by Liverpool, this tie remains open as both teams will be confident of making it to the next round. While Manchester City have left themselves with no margin for error, they need to keep a clean sheet and score at least three goals to at least force the game into extra-time. For Liverpool, get a vital away goal would make the mountain insurmountable for City.
The Spaniard is confident that his “extraordinary” team, so dominant domestically this year, is capable of doing what would be a remarkable comeback. In his words: “Of course to go through, you have to make the perfect game. Create chances, be clinical, and concede few chances- all the conditions have to be perfect. The result is tough, but we have 90 minutes and in football, everything can happen. What we are going to do is try.”
“I am not interested (in the favourites tag). We are only in the lead. It is better than I expected but you all know there is still a lot of work to do.”
- City are looking to become only the third club in the history of the Champions League to have overturned at least a three-goal deficit from the first leg in the knock-out stages- Deportivo against AC Milan in 2003/2004 and Barcelona against PSG last season.
- City have only lost one of their last 13 Champions League home games (W9 D3), against FC Basel (1-2) in this season’s round of 16.
- Liverpool are unbeaten in their last five Champions League away games (W2 D3). They last went six games without defeat on the road between March and December 2005, during which they won the trophy.
- Liverpool have scored more goals than any other side in this season’s Champions League (31).
- Guardiola’s team have only stage a comeback twice out of the seven times they lost the first leg away from home (Arsenal in 2010/2011 and Porto in 2015/2016).