The two most exciting teams in the Premiership will do battle in an intriguing Champions League quarter-final first leg on Wednesday night. Liverpool are the only team to beat Man City in the league this season and they will bid to repeat that feat at Anfield this week. The return leg takes place at The Etihad just six days later, by which time the number of English teams at Europe’s top table will be whittled down to one. Runaway Premiership leaders Man City are understandably the favourites to progress at Liverpool’s expense, but the Reds are in fine form and it should be a cracking game.
Both teams warmed up with victory at the weekend, as a late Mohamed Salah strike saw Liverpool past Crystal Palace and Man City annihilated Everton with a magnificent performance. The Reds looked a little laboured and just managed to get the job done, but City were awe-inspiring. Pep Guardiola has inspired a remarkable improvement in players like Leroy Sane and Kevin De Bruyne, and they simply ran rings around the Toffees. They have now scored a remarkable 88 goals in 31 games, conceding just 21 – the fewest in the league – and they look set to break the record for the most Premiership points ever secured. Thrashing Arsenal in the Carabao Cup final and earning that crucial first piece of silverware has seemingly sent their confidence soaring even higher, and they look pretty invincible at present.
But Liverpool delivered a real psychological blow ahead of this contest by beating Man City 4-3 and ending their bid to become genuine Invincibles. In many ways, Liverpool are the perfect team to face City, because Guardiola is unbending in his plan to play out from defence, and Jurgen Klopp’s Gegenpressing puts defenders under intense pressure. They forced City players to lose possession in perilous positions on multiple occasions at Anfield and punished them ruthlessly. Mohamed Salah has emerged as arguably the most exciting attacker in Europe this season and he is well ahead in the Premiership Golden Boot race.
Liverpool’s defence has long been shaky, and you would expect them to concede in both legs of this tie. But the arrival of Virgil Van Dijk, for a world record fee for a defender, has made them a little tighter and they may not concede too many goals. Going forwards they have plenty of weapons to hurt City, as Sadio Mane is finding form once again, and Roberto Firmino is an extremely intelligent player. Neutrals will be hoping for a repeat of the end-to-end action we saw in that 4-3 game, rather than a repeat of Man City’s 5-0 thrashing of 10-man Liverpool earlier this season.
When the Champions League draw was announced, it seemed a shame that the only English teams left in the competition were pitted against one another. But at least it guarantees a Premiership team in the semi-finals, and City will be among the favourites if they go through. Liverpool would also be serious contenders. This could develop into the sort of tie like Man City’s thrilling clash with Monaco last season, and both teams to score looks good for anyone that likes a bet. Take a look at BetOnline for the rest of the Champions League and things like both teams to score and over 2.5 goals will be attractive when these Premiership heavyweights meet. Man City are the 4/9 favourites to qualify, while Liverpool are out at 2/1, but it should prove to be a close, fascinating tie full of chances and intrigue, providing another great advertisement for the Premier League, the most exciting league in the world.