A week ago many football fans received reverberating shock when Liverpool raced to first leg 3 – 0 win over Pep Guardiola’s Citizens with the side looking a complete contrast to one that blew teams away prior to that game. Manchester City’s woeful week was further compouded as feisty neighbours, Manchester United came from 2-0 down on Saturday to win 3-2 at the Etihad Stadium and prevent City from clinching the Premier League title with seven games to spare. But, despite these mishap, and the apparent mountain to climb for Manchester City is to make the Semi Finals of the Champions League and keep their chances of a ‘pseudo treble’ alive and I think Pep Guardiola has the tactical nous to turn the game on its head, I mean, is the Spanish baldicoot not THE GENIUS? – here are three main reasons why :
Pep enjoys equal home advantage like Liverpool do in Anfield
Whilst Liverpool are a different outfit whilst buoyed on by their fantastic support at Anfield, City are equally as dominant at the Etihad – and whilst they cannot claim to have the same level of atmosphere that can help unsettle opponents, City have been virtually untouchable on their home turf – indeed, before Manchester United’s victory on Saturday, they had won 14 of 15 Premier League games there and boast a goal difference of +40 even after the United loss. Whilst Basel managed to win in their R16 fixture at the Etihad, City had already done the damage with a 4-0 victory in Switzerland – but before that had won all their three home group fixtures by a combined score of 5-1. Manchester City are generally on offer to win the fixture (in isolation) at odds of 1/2, showing that bookies feel they will prevail on home turf….that eats into the deficit by one as a minimum…..!
City’s prolific attack
Any team that is averaging about 3 goals per game, and will have licence to go on the all out offensive, with little left to lose, has to be respected and should they maintain that average, will be back in the game. City started extremely fast against Manchester United on Saturday, scoring two goals in the first 30 minutes and missing a host of chances before half time that would have likely taken the game out of United’s reach – and that is without the likes of Jesus, Aguero, De Bruyne in the starting line up. With the Premier League title all but certain, Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola will absolutely look to drive at Liverpool from the off in the hope of an early goal that will rattle the nerves of their Premier League opponents. It could well be the snowflake that starts the avalanche.
Even with Van Dijk, Liverpool isn’t reassuring defensively.
Whilst taking a 3-0 lead into the second leg is a position of extreme strength, you have to wonder whether the Reds will be caught between a rock and a hard place as to how they approach the game. They will be very aware that a single away goal will be a real killer and mean City will then need to score 5 – but can they really be as cavalier as they were last week and leave the space which Manchester City are experts in exploiting? So should they take a more defensive approach and look to protect their lead – an equally dangerous ploy as it invites City pressure where the likes of Silva, Sane and De Bruyne have shown they can unpick even the tightest of locked defences. Whilst Liverpool have been much better defensively in the second half of the season, there is still a feeling of vulnerability about them, and they will be feeling the pressure tonight.
It is almost certain that Liverpool have the semi final ticket in the bag now, but lets remember that stranger and more ‘grotesque’ things have occurred in the knock out stages of the Champions League ….Unai Emery and PSG BOTTLING COMPANY readily comes to mind – City can write their own history, earlier this season they spanked the same Liverpool side 5 -0 without moving into second gear, they can do the same tonight, all they need is that crucial goal early in the game and the complexion changes totally.