Manchester City have run roughshod over the rest of the Premier League this season and Pep Guardiola’s side is now just one win away from winning the title. Considering it is early April, that’s quite a remarkable accomplishment.
With the Premier League title on layaway, City can focus most of their attention on the Champions League.
European glory won’t be easy, however, as giants like Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich are all still alive. The Citizens also face the rather daunting task of having to get past Liverpool in the upcoming quarter-final round.
City will go to Anfield this coming Wednesday for the first leg before the return leg takes place at the Etihad Stadium next Tuesday.
Liverpool are the only team to have beaten Guardiola’s men in the Premier League this season, so the Citizens boss knows that going into Anfield and enjoying success will not be straightforward.
Most reputable football betting sites still list City as the favourites to get past the Reds and into the semi-finals, but Liverpool can’t be taken lightly, particularly on Merseyside.
Despite the loss of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona in January, Jurgen Klopp’s attacking trio of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane is still arguably the most dangerous in Europe.
“Not just [Salah], Mane and Firmino, all three, they’re almost unstoppable,” City boss Guardiola is quoted as saying by the Telegraph.
“They are fantastic, fantastic players. The way Liverpool plays is so complicated for us. We know that.
“They are so quick, they are so good and it is tough, but it is the quarterfinal of Champions League so we cannot expect that, in that level, something is going to be easy.”
Salah, Firmino and Mane each found the back of the net during Liverpool’s thrilling 4-3 triumph over City at Anfield back in January. The visitors were able to make things interesting toward the end of the match, but ultimately the 4-1 deficit was too much to claw back.
City do have the advantage of playing the second leg on their home turf, where they thrashed Liverpool by a score of 5-0 earlier this season.
The Reds were rather short-handed that day, however, as Mane was sent off after picking up a straight red card in the 37th minute. City scored four of its five goals that day against a 10-man Liverpool side.
When asked about his plan of attack ahead of Wednesday’s match, Guardiola admitted City would need to be at their best.
“Scoring goals away is so important and we are going to try to score goals but we cannot deny three people running up front plus [Alex] Oxlade-Chamberlain in the middle plus set-pieces with [Virgil] Van Dijk – they are an extraordinary team,” he said.
“But that is what happens in the quarterfinals of the Champions League. If you are playing against Barcelona or Madrid or against Bayern Munich or Juventus or Roma or Sevilla, in that level you stop.”
Sergio Aguero, who missed the weekend’s win over Everton with a knee injury, is uncertain to return for the Liverpool clash.
Guardiola said that it is still too early in the week to know whether the Argentine striker will be fit in time to contribute.
“We will see,” the City boss concluded.
“Still he didn’t train – one training session. Hopefully, he is much, much better. We will see. In these situations it is day-by-day. Hopefully he can help us. Maybe not in the beginning, maybe from the bench.”
City and Liverpool will kick off from Anfield at 7:45 GMT on Wednesday.