Manchester City vs. Liverpool
| Tuesday, April 10th|
Champions League | Etihad Stadium
7:45 PM GMT / 2:45 PM EST
It’s an odd thing, the particular neurosis that afflicts fans of Liverpool Football Club. Following their best performance in years, the club is 3-0 up ahead of tomorrow’s return leg, in which they thoroughly thumped one of the best sides in Europe, a side that followed that defeat up with a 3-2 home loss to local rivals Manchester United at the weekend, and a side that looks as though its veneer of invincibility is cracking. And yet it seems like there is substantially more hand-wringing and consternation than would be the case had the first leg ended nil-nil. The pressure is on, and the underdog tag suits our sensibilities far better.
Despite a significant deficit to overcome, and despite struggling in recent weeks, Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City remain an impressive team. Their defeat at the weekend came after a first half in which they could realistically have scored six, and tomorrow’s opposition have given up 3-0 leads in far less time than 90 minutes. Assuming their constitution hasn’t completely crumbled from consecutive defeats, the Citizens will fancy their chances to make the tie interesting.
One wouldn’t expect a repeat of last week’s Aymeric Laporte experiment, and City will no doubt take their chances and push both fullbacks high up the pitch early and often. Raheem Sterling may get an opportunity to overcome his bad Liverpool juju, and Sergio Agüero is fit again, despite having a dive against Ashley Young on Saturday. The Sky Blues are healthy, but questions about whether their exertions at the weekend could come back to haunt them remain.
Projected Liverpool Lineup (4-3-3)
Karius; Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Lovren, Robertson; Milner, Wijnaldum, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Mané, Firmino, Salah
At Liverpool’s end, the team more or less picks itself. Assuming Mohamed Salah recovers from his groin problem, and assuming Andy Robertson and Alberto Moreno aren’t suddenly out with newly sustained injuries, Jürgen Klopp has exactly 11 first team players to pick from.
Trent Alexander-Arnold was rested at the weekend following a sensational display against Leroy Sané last Wednesday, and he will join Dejan Lovren and Virgil van Dijk in the backline. Jordan Henderson is suspended, and Georginio Wijnaldum looks likely to replace the captain in the deepest midfield role, having performed admirably in the derby at the weekend. He will partner a revitalised James Milner and a suddenly consistent Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the midfield three.
Up top, presuming Salah’s fitness, there are no real options. Sadio Mané played 75 minutes on Saturday and may be affected by his 16 consecutive starts, but Roberto Firmino had only a 20-minute runout, while Salah did not play at all. The hope, then, is that the Liverpool front line will be fresh and ready to exploit a City backline that will undoubtedly be put in exploitable positions, and that may be feeling their derby defeat both physically and mentally.
The Officials (ESP)
Referee: Antonio Mateu Lahoz
Assistants: Pau Cebrián Devís, Roberto del Palomar
Fourth official: Teodoro Sobrino
Additional assistants: Carlos Del Cerro, Alejandro Hernandez
Kickoff is set for 7:45 PM GMT/ 2:45 PM EST tomorrow, and television listings for the match can be found on LiveSoccerTV. In the meantime, we'll be keeping you updated with all the buildup to the game, including team news as it's released, our live matchday thread, and post-match recaps from The Liverpool Offside staff. If you want to join the discussion, sign up for an SB Nation account to have your say on the action as it happens.