Manchester City must roar back from their worst run of Pep Guardiola’s tenure as they look to overturn a 3-0 quarter-final first-leg deficit to reach the Champions League semi-finals at the expense of Liverpool.
A heavy defeat at Anfield was followed by another three-goal collapse in one half of football as the Premier League title party was delayed by at least two more weeks thanks to Manchester United’s remarkable derby one.
Liverpool have never lost a European tie when after winning the home first leg 3-0 but City have scored three or more in over half of their 23 home games this season so the pedigree is there for both sides.
It was only a few months ago City looked on course for a unprecendented quadruple of trophies, but as it stands it looks like they may have to settle for the double despite Saturday’s 3-2 defeat in the Manchester derby to United.
Just once has a team overturned a four-goal deficit – Barcelona’s famous win over Paris Saint-Germain last season – while only one other team has managed to come back from a three-goal loss.
Sergio Aguero trained with City on Monday ahead of the Champions League second-leg. The Argentine striker, who struggled with injury in recent months, was on the end of a heavy challenge from Ashley Young late on in their Manchester derby defeat on Saturday. But Aguero took part in the late afternoon session at City’s training on Monday and appeared to be moving fairly well.
Mohammd Salah was ruled out of Saturday’s goalless draw against Merseyside rivals Everton. If the 38 goal winger is fit and available, his presence alone will surely be too much for City to handle after conceding 3 goals in each of their last 2 games.
Confidence and mentality are crucial against Liverpool; City have to be patient, play on the ball but they have to be more aggressive off it. They were too casual in some of the goals conceded this last week, losing crucial 50-50s, but if City gain those millimetres they will face themselves with the opportunity to beat Liverpool.
But Liverpool, with space, can kill you too. It will be a fascinating game and one in which the fans have a role to play. All of us have always dreamt of being apart of a match like this. Defeat will hurt of course but it will not remain in memory for as long as a comeback would.
Sterling will be heavily criticised for his misses but he has scored 21 goals this season and those sorts of chances have usually ended up in the back of the net.
If I was going to break the derby game down and analyse it tactically, then I would say what City were missing was the level of control they have had in most of their games this season.
Usually, when they go a goal or two up, they can just dictate the game, set the tempo and get their players on the ball.
This time, that midfield area was a little bit chaotic. United did really well to create that but they were helped by the absence of Sergio Aguero leading City’s attack at the top end of the pitch.
City were without him and Gabriel Jesus and that let them press as high as they wanted to. It meant their midfield got closer to City’s players and – like Liverpool at Anfield last week – they did not allow them the space they like to operate in.
Their capitulation in the second half – when they conceded three goals in 16 minutes – was down to a combination of things, but it still throws into doubt whether it will happen against the Reds, and also against Tottenham at Wembley next weekend.
United did it a bit differently but both Liverpool and Spurs are capable of the kind of intense press and then breaking from high positions that causes City problems – and I am sure the Reds will try to do it again at the Etihad.
Going on the attack is the only way both teams know how to play, which is why they are so good to watch.
It would not surprise me if City score a couple of goals to get back into the tie – and I can’t wait to see how it turns out.