Champions League: Manchester City vs Liverpool – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
Manchester City have a mountain to climb on Tuesday when they welcome Liverpool to the Etihad Stadium.
19:45 BST, Tuesday 10th April, Etihad Stadium (Manchester, England), BT Sport
After one of the upsets of the tournament, Manchester City find themselves spiralling out of the Champions League unless they can turn around a 3-0 deficit against Liverpool in the second leg of their quarterfinal match this Tuesday.
It’s been a troubling week for the Premier League leaders, beginning with defeat at Anfield and culminating in an embarrassing volte-face against Manchester United when Pep Guardiola’s team rolled over in the second half despite having a two-goal lead to defend.
But despite this recent blip, it still feels as though Manchester City are very much in this tie. Of course, should they concede a goal at the Etihad, then they would then need to score five goals to go through to the semifinal stages. But a 3-0 victory does not seem entirely beyond the realms of possibility.
For Jurgen Klopp, then, the big question is: how to score a goal without putting your own goal at risk? In many respects, the solution may simply be to sit deep and prevent Manchester City from scoring any goals, something Liverpool did well in the second half of the first leg.
With Klopp resting a substantial number of players at the weekend for the Merseyside derby, when brought into focus against the backdrop of City’s own collapse in their derby, Liverpool are certainly the favourites to come through this double header.
However, as Paris Saint-Germain fans will be well aware, the best teams in the world can overcome large deficits, meaning Liverpool should go into this one with caution.
Last Time Out
Manchester City 2-3 Manchester United (Premier League)
In a game that deserved the tagline “A game of two halves”, Manchester City were left shell-shocked as Manchester United turned over a two-goal deficit to emerge victorious, simultaneously preventing their rivals from winning the Premier League trophy.
Pep Guardiola’s side dominated the first half with Vincent Kompany scoring early from a corner, quickly followed by an exquisite turn-and-shot from Ilkay Gundogan to double the lead.
Raheem Sterling had two good chances to put the game out of sight and Gundogan also found himself with a good chance when the ball fell on his head in the six-yard box. However, neither could trouble David de Gea in the Manchester United goal.
After the break, City were undone through a 15 minutes period of Manchester United dominance: Paul Pogba, up until this point offering little, scoring two goals before Chris Smalling found himself unmarked from a set piece to score the winner.
While the game is being portrayed as an historical victory for the red half of Manchester, Pep Guardiola will be alarmed at the manner in which his side collapsed defensively. This fragility going into the second leg of the Champions League quarterfinals can only be worrying for Manchester City fans.
Everton 0-0 Liverpool (Premier League)
Where Manchester City spent the weekend heaping pressure upon themselves, Liverpool did the opposite, fielding a heavily-rotated side at Goodison Park and running out with a 0-0 draw which, with Chelsea drawing with West Ham, almost guarantees a top four finish.
Everton have been disappointing under Sam Allardyce and this match proved no different. It was only with the late introduction of Beni Baningime that the Toffees looked likely to score: Cenk Tosun missing the inside of the post and his teammate Seamus Coleman sliding in, and Dominic Calvert-Lewin spurning a late chance.
Liverpool also had chances: Dom Solanke should have finished from close range but Jordan Pickford saved well. In the end, though, it was ‘job done’ for Jurgen Klopp’s side as they made the long journey home across Stanley Park.
Manchester City Lineup
But for the continuing injury woes of Benjamin Mendy, Pep Guardiola has a full-strength squad to pick from.
With Fernandinho suspended for the next two Premier League games, he is certain to start in central midfield.
Elsewhere, the question in how to fit Raheem Sterling – who started on the bench last Wednesday – into the side.
Liverpool are suffering from something of a mini injury crisis at the moment: Alberto Moreno picking up an injury before the Everton game to be ruled out for Tuesday.
In addition, Emre Can is suffering from a back injury and Joel Matip is out for the rest of the season with a thigh problem. Joe Gomez rounds off the list with his malleolar injury keeping him out.
On top of this, Jordan Henderson is suspended for one game having picked up a yellow card in the first leg. He’ll likely be replaced by Georginio Wijnaldum.
Key Battle: Raheem Sterling (Manchester City) vs Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool)
Raheem Sterling wasn’t started in the first leg and when he came on he looked unlikely to change the flow of the game.
Following this up with another poor performance on Sunday, missing the target twice when he really should have troubled David de Gea, it is paramount that the England international puts in a strong performance on Tuesday.
Of course, if Manchester City drop out of the competition it will not have been entirely Sterling’s fault. But for a player whose career has been plagued by questions about his ability in front of goal, this season’s hard work is in danger of being unravelled.
Georginio Wijnaldum won’t be tasked with stifling Sterling on Wednesday but he is also under a similar amount of pressure.
With Jordan Henderson out through suspension, the Dutchman will have to deputise in an unfamiliar role, sitting in the No. 6 role.
As a result, he’ll be expected to help the defence stem the tide of Manchester City’s attack. This puts him in a position of some responsibility: if Liverpool concede first, it could be a nervy match for their supporters.
Do City have a psychological problem?
It is all too easy to point to psychological issues in scenarios when teams collapse. When Manchester City were turned over so easily by Manchester United on Sunday, it was hard not to look at their last two games as indicative of some sort of nervousness creeping in.
This is the last time in the season that Pep Guardiola wants to have to deal with this sort of problem. If the nerves start jangling at this point, with Champions League football and even their Premier League status at stake, then much of the good work from the first part of the season could be undone.
No one doubts that Manchester City will win their third Premier League trophy this season. But momentum is not simply about dragging yourself over the line: Guardiola will already be thinking of next season.
How do Liverpool approach this one?
If Liverpool score, Manchester City have to score five goals. But if Manchester City score first, a 3-0 deficit suddenly seems less insuperable.
Which is worse? Should Liverpool – like Paris Saint-Germain last season – go for the goal and then rely on that buffer? Or should they sit back confident that their 3-0 lead is enough.
Of course, it’s easier said than done to sit back and defend a lead – just look at Liverpool’s away match with Sevilla. Attacking is what they do best, though. So it seems as though the best option for Jurgen Klopp is to approach the game positively.
Prediction: Manchester City 3-1 Liverpool
This is an impossible one to call. It could go one of many ways. If Liverpool score early, expect Manchester City to collapse in what could be a heavy defeat.
However, the more likely scenario is that Manchester City will score first but, in a bid to score more, will give a goal away, leaving Jurgen Klopp’s men with a defendable difference to protect.