09 April 2018

Liverpool at Manchester City 04.10.18

Liverpool lead 3-0 on aggregate

2:45pm ET, live in the US on Fox Sports 1

Last four head-to-head:
3-0 Liverpool (h) 04.04.18
4-3 Liverpool (h) 01.14.18
0-5 City (a) 09.09.17
1-1 (a) 03.19.17

CL results:
Liverpool: 3-0 City (h); 0-0 Porto (h); 5-0 Porto (a); 7-0 Spartak (h); 3-3 Sevilla (a); 3-0 Maribor (h); 7-0 Maribor (a); 1-1 Spartak (a); 2-2 Sevilla (h); 4-2 Hoffenheim (h); 2-1 Hoffenheim (a)
City: 0-3 Liverpool (a); 1-2 Basel (h); 4-0 Basel (a); 1-2 Shakhtar (a); 1-0 Feyenoord (h); 4-2 Napoli (a); 2-1 Napoli (h); 2-0 Shakhtar (h); 4-0 Feyenoord (a)

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 0-0 Everton (a); 3-0 City (a); 2-1 Palace (a)
City: 2-3 United (h); 0-3 Liverpool (a); 3-1 Everton (a)

Goalscorers (Europe):
Liverpool: Firmino, Salah 8; Mané 7; Coutinho 5; Can 3; Alexander-Arnold, Oxlade-Chamberlain 2; Sturridge 1
City: Agüero, Sterling 4; Jesus, Stones 3; Gündogan 2; de Bruyne, Otamendi, B Silva 1

Referee: Antonio Mateu Lahoz (ESP)

Guess at a line-up:
Trent A-A Lovren van Dijk Robertson
Alex O-C Wijnaldum Milner
Salah Firmino Mané

23 times.

That's how many times this season that Manchester City have scored three or more goals in a match. 23 matches out of 50 in all competitions. Almost half.

Including, as you may remember, a 5-0 win against Liverpool back in September. Which, yeah, explanatory, possibly unrepeatable excuses, but it still happened.

This quarterfinal is not over.

Liverpool's XI is straight-forward, as long as both Salah and Robertson recover from their respective minor injuries. Matip, Can, Gomez, and Lallana remain out long-term, Henderson's suspended. The defense basically has to be the defense, the midfield has to be the midfield, and the front three will be the front three if at all possible.

Of course, the midfield remains the most frightening. Liverpool's three most attacking players of the five who vie for starting spots. Wijnaldum as the deepest, for just the second time in his Liverpool career following an encouraging performance against a far less attacking Everton. Playing against de Bruyne, Silva, and Fernandinho is gonna be a lot different than against Rooney, Davies, and Schneiderlin.

Unless Salah won't be fit to start. That's the most frightening. And I have no idea what Liverpool will do if Salah can't go. Oxlade-Chamberlain, who's started in the front three or wide in a 4-4-2, has to play in midfield due to absences if Liverpool stick with 4-3-3. Woodburn's back in training but hasn't featured for the first team yet this season. Hell, even Moreno would be an option on the left wing rather than at full-back, with Mané switching to the right, but he's as doubtful as Salah due to injury. I guess it'd be either Firmino on the right with Ings or Solanke – probably Ings up front – or a 4-4-2 with a front six of Oxlade-Chamberlain, Wijnaldum, Milner, Mané; Firmino, Ings/Solanke, but neither option fills me with optimism.

Meanwhile, Pep's gonna Pep, but I have to believe we're done with the nonsense seen in the last leg. This must be his "strongest" XI. The most familiar XI. Ederson; Walker, Kompany, Otamendi, Delph; de Bruyne, Fernandinho, Silva; Sterling, Agüero, Sané. The only possible change should be Stones for Otamendi – who has not had the best of games in his last two against Liverpool – or Kompany – who might not be able to start three games in six days. But no "center-back at left-back." No "de Bruyne playing deeper." No "Gündogan on the right." City's best players in City's most familiar formation.

Of course, that familiar formation – albeit with Bernardo Silva as a false nine and Gündogan rather than de Bruyne for the first 70 minutes – roared out to a 2-0 lead on Saturday before capitulating against United, conceding three goals in 16 minutes to their nearest rivals. They had the chance to cement the league against the Evil Empire and they failed spectacularly, first shutting off, seeming thinking the game and the league were won, then unable to turn it back on. I have never seen City give up three goals in a short span. That just does not happen, especially not in City's last two matches against Liverpool. Wink, nudge, etc.

Liverpool have to learn from the last leg. For better or for worse, Liverpool have to do Liverpool. They can't sit back and go "sure, score three." Yes, Liverpool defended egregiously well in the last leg, shutting City down in the second half, protecting that three-goal lead, but that can't and won't happen every game, despite Liverpool's recent defensive improvement. Manchester City absolutely love playing against packed, deep defenses who don't want the ball. It's what they do best.

Liverpool have to full-throated press, guns blazing, front three vicious. Liverpool have to blitzkrieg counter as soon as Liverpool gain possession, wherever Liverpool gain possession. Liverpool have to rattle them. Liverpool have to score – not to cement the gap and require City to need five goals, but because Liverpool thrive when Liverpool score and Liverpool don't when Liverpool don't. Liverpool have to come out and announce, "This is what we do. Fear us."

Liverpool have conceded three goals in five matches this season. 3-3 at Watford, 0-5 at City, 3-3 v Sevilla, 3-3 at Arsenal, 4-3 v City. Yes, twice against City, but only the 0-5 saw Liverpool fail to score. Not only can we blame Mané's red card for that, it also happened seven months ago. Liverpool have gotten a bit better since then.

Liverpool's game is Liverpool scoring.

As in the last leg.

Do Liverpool. And the rest should follow.

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