Opinion

Liverpool vs Manchester City: What To Expect In The Return Leg

Come Tuesday night, Liverpool will once more take on the men in Sky Blue for the 2nd leg of the Champions League quarter finals. With a commanding 3-0 lead from the 1st leg, the Reds are favourites to progress to the semi finals. However, City would hope that home comforts at the Ethihad would help them overcome a 3 goal deficit. Regardless, the 2nd leg promises to be an equally explosive encounter as the 1st. With that, here are things fans should expect in the return leg.

Pep Will Continue To Target Trent

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At Anfield, it was clear that much of City’s game plan was to attack Trent. It made perfect sense considering the youngster had tough games against Manchester United and Crystal Palace. However, the young Scouser was in imperious form, making the most clearances (10) and interceptions (7) that night. With that much emphasis on City’s left, it was little wonder City failed to create many significant chances.

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City’s attack sides, courtesy of WhoScored

Despite the relative lack of success down the left for the 1st leg, Pep would probably still target Trent. Without the home crowd roaring him on, Pep will be gambling that Trent would be less assured and hence easier to attack against. With a potent weapon in the form of Sane, it’ll seem a logical decision to once again overload the left. What remains to be seen is whether it would pay off this time round, or fail once again.

Sterling & Delph To Start

Gundo Sterling substitution

When Guardiola sprung a mild surprise by excluding an in-form Sterling from the lineup, it was based on the assumption that he couldn’t perform against his old club. Afterall, Sterling had failed to score or assist in each of his 7 appearances against Liverpool, and had only been on the winning side once via a penalty shootout. Still, Guardiola’s decision severely imbalanced his City side, blunting the Citizens’ attack while exposing weak points.

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City’s average player positions, courtesy of WhoScored

As shown in the diagram above, Guardiola’s decision to field Gundogan meant that City spent much of their time in a bizzare 4-2-2-2 shape. This was due to Gundogan’s tendency to drift infield as he is more of a central player. As a result, City lacked width on the right, leaving Walker horribly exposed. By hooking off Gundogan after just 57 minutes for Sterling, it seems to be an admission on Pep’s part that he had gotten his tactics wrong. With Pep unlikely to make the same mistake twice, expect Sterling to make a start against his old club.

Separately, part of the reason why Guardiola’s plan to attack down the left didn’t bear fruit was due to the absence of an overlapping fullback. Sure, against the likes of Salah it made sense to deploy Laporte, who is a better defender, to man mark Salah. But given that Laporte is a centre back by trade, it meant that he rarely supported Sane in attack. As a result, it made Trent’s job of tracking Sane much easier. With Pep expected to attack down the left yet again, Delph would surely start given his ability to link up play with the midfield.

Both Sides Will Come Out Roaring

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Manchester City have their egos bruised, crumbling at Anfield in the midweek before being humbled by their neighbours, which in the process delayed their own title celebrations. With the likes of de Bryune, Jesus and Walker rested for the Manchester derby, Man City will have a point to prove and will come out guns blazing in their bid to overturn a 3 goal disadvantage. On the other hand, Liverpool will equally look to begin with a frenetic start, knowing that an away goal would force the men in Blue to score 5 goals in order to progress. That was Liverpool’s game plan in the 1st leg after all, where they blew City away in the first half with their intensity, before sitting back and absorbing the pressure in the second half. With each side looking to press at every opportunity, it promises to be an entertaining affair as both sides would try to exploit each other’s gaps. Let the goals rain at the Ethihad!

Photos taken from @LFC and mancity.com
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