The first of two enthralling legs of football will be hosted by Anfield this Wednesday night as the soon-to-be-crowned league champions play one of the three teams to defeat them this season under the bright lights of the Champions League Quarter-Finals.
Klopp’s men have shown varying signs of resilience in recent weeks, the tough win at Palace followed the demolition of Watford. This is the type of resilience Liverpool will need to overcome this all-conquering City side. However, this is the best situation for the Reds. Backs against the wall and with nothing to lose.
Having swept all before them this season, City come to Anfield trying to build a legacy that already runs through the veins of Liverpool Football Club. They are a fantastic football side, De Bruyne, Silva, Sane, Aguero and former Red, Raheem Sterling, just to name a few, come to Anfield in fantastic form, having swept Everton a side with an embarrassing amount of ease in their last outing. Pep Guardiola has them playing football rarely seen in England.
City has had success against the likes of Bayern Munich in the group stages, but their only significant result in the knockout phase was when they beat PSG over two legs in the 2016 Quarter-Finals under Pellegrini. They then meekly handed Real Madrid a semi-final win by the odd goal. Silva, Toure, Kompany and Aguero all have had long City careers without having greatly affected the Champions League, they will see this chance as the best they have had. The proven pedigree lies with the managers, more than it does the players this time round.
However, there is something uniquely special about Anfield on a European night. Something, the deep pockets of City’s owners cannot buy. A legacy that draws the best performances out of every Liverpool player. Special nights versus St Etienne, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund spanning over 40 years. City knows this, they felt it in January and they know that no amount of training or experience can prepare them.
This Liverpool side has shown steady progress this season and with the introduction of Van Dijk and Karius been given the 1st choice mantle in-goal, there has been marked improvements in defense. It is by no means elite, but the individual brain farts which seem to happen weekly are now far less frequent. Klopp and his Reds can attack this fixture without any pressure. It is already been Liverpool’s best European performance since 2009 and are rank outsiders to go all the way, which means all the pressure is on Pep and his City side.
Off the back of Liverpool’s league win in January, City’s setup will be interesting. Silva has recently been given a more free role in midfield with De Bruyne sitting deeper with Fernandinho. Walker will push high, moving Sterling closer to the Jesus or Aguero up top. Pep has experimented with Laporte at left-back, switching between a back three and back four in the middle of games. An extra defender will help bringing the ball out from the back and help cover when Liverpool’s press is successful.
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Klopp will send his side out to press high, which means he will need energy and legs in midfield. From the side that beat City previously, I only expect Lovren and Gomez to be replaced by Trent and Van Dijk. I suspect it is far too soon for Clyne to come straight into the side, even though Trent has been targeted and found wanting on occasion recently.
The key to Liverpool’s success in the first leg, is to start well and use the energy of the crowd. Then with the high press, try to isolate City defenders and get in behind their fullbacks, where they leave space for Mane and Salah to attack. Defensively, they need to stay compact, concentrate and win their duels.
Both sides will come to play and this might help turn the 1st leg into a very special night.
Red men, make us dream.