Date: 4 April 2018
Referee: Felix Brych
Kick off: 19:45
It is the second trip to Merseyside in the space of four days for Manchester City as they travel to Anfield to face Liverpool in the first leg of their Champions League quarter final tie. With the Goodison Park hoodoo all but gone, it is now time to end the winless streak at Anfield. Pep Guardiola has said that he will be fielding a stronger team at Liverpool compared to the Manchester derby the following Saturday, so it seems like the Catalan is going all in on the Champions League on Wednesday.
During the international break, all that was being talked about when it came to City and Liverpool was the infamous coach greeting poster.
Regardless of what happens with the coaches, the atmosphere at Anfield on a European night will be electric and could play its part in how this first leg unfolds. The first 20 minutes of the match are crucial as City while the chants from the stands are at its peak and not concede. If Liverpool do indeed score within the first 20 minutes, then it will be a difficult night for the Blues.
It may not be the most glamorous period of football from a Guardiola team, but, if they can soak up ‘heavy metal’ football and the chants from the Kop, City will have settled into the game and hopefully gain control.
Fabian Delph has returned to the squad after getting injured back in January which means there are few options at left back – those being Delph, Danilo or even Laporte after being played in the position against Everton.
John Stones should also make a return to the squad after concussion measures which saw him miss the Everton match.
The only major piece of injury news is that striker Sergio Aguero has not travelled to Liverpool as he continues to recover from a knee injury, but, there is some hope that the Argentine will be able to play a part in the Manchester derby on Saturday. This confirms that Gabriel Jesus will be leading the City line.
Liverpool are the only team to beat Manchester City in the Premier League this season with a seven-goal thriller at Anfield back in January that saw the home side come out 4-3 winners – and in the Champions League, Jürgen Klopp’s side have been impressive.
Coming top of their group and a 5-0 win against Porto over two legs in the last round, Liverpool are a side who are scoring goals for fun.
With a front three of Salah, Firmino and Mané, it is no surprise that the red side of Merseyside are prolific in front of goal. Liverpool’s back four have also seen some stability following Virgil van Dijk’s arrival, but, if against a talented attack, they can leak goals.
If Klopp’s side use constant pressure against City on Wednesday night, there could be a similar performance to the one which saw them come out on top in January.
City will have learnt from their mistakes after that 4-3 loss at Anfield and it will simply be a case of soaking up the pressure and attempting to calm down the atmosphere.
Vincent Kompany and David Silva will be available to line up in a City side that missed their presence in January and as a result will be a lot calmer when it comes to this first leg. However, with the attacking forces both teams have, there will be goals.
This first leg will see a controlled performance from Guardiola’s team, one that will attempt to keep the ball for as long as possible and try to wear Liverpool down before attempting to create chances and get that vital away goal.
My prediction is that the first leg of this quarter final will finish up 1-1, setting up a fascinating second leg at the Etihad Stadium in a week’s time.