Manchester City have a monumental task ahead of them as they seek to overturn a three-goal first-leg deficit in the return leg of their Champions League quarter-final against Liverpool on Tuesday (2.45pm ET).
Liverpool blew City away with a stunning first-half blitz at Anfield last week. They poured forward from the off and scored three times inside the opening half hour with goals from Mohamed Salah, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sadio Mane. Man City had no response.
It was a surprisingly comprehensive defeat given how well City have played this season. They got into some decent areas but created few notable chances. But coach Pep Guardiola has said that they maintain belief in their ability to turn things around. History provides examples of his teams producing similar comebacks in European competition.
A couple of years ago, his Bayern Munich side were on the verge of going out to Juventus, only to score twice in the final 20 minutes to force extra time and eventually emerge victorious. A year earlier, they came back from a 1-3 first-leg defeat to Porto to go through with a 6-1 win in the return that included five goals inside the opening 40 minutes. But they were then unable to overturn a 0-3 loss to Barcelona in the away leg of their semi-final.
That is the same deficit they need to overcome this week. They did record a 5-0 win over Liverpool at the Etihad earlier this season, although that was somewhat conditioned by Mane’s first-half dismissal. A degree of optimism can also be taken from the fact that they have recorded 13 wins this season that would at least force extra time if repeated on Tuesday.
That will not, however, be an easy task. Even though City have been the class of the Premier League this season, there does seem to be a degree to which Liverpool have figured out how to make the most of their own strengths in order to overcome them. Two of City’s six defeats in all competitions this season – the latest of which came in a 2-3 reverse in the derby with Manchester United on Saturday – have been at their hands.
The victory last week saw Jurgen Klopp edge ahead of Guardiola in their head-to-head record, which takes in their meetings as coaches of Borussia Dortmund and Bayern respectively, as well as those with their current employers. Klopp has always managed to compete well against Guardiola even with lesser relative resources.
His side hold a commanding advantage ahead of the return leg, but he must now find the right balance between holding Man City off and providing enough threat on the counter-attack to notch the away goal that would require City to beat his side by four on the night in order to progress. They showed well defensively in the second half of the first leg, but Klopp afterwards indicated that he would have still liked to have seen them play more football.
Such a pronouncement makes sense in consideration of the quality of the Liverpool attack. With a potent mix of pace, power and subtlety, they have averaged 2.43 goals per match in league and Champions League play this season. To not successfully work the ball forward to their front three would be to rob themselves of their primary asset.
Salah has been the standout performer, providing 36 goals and 11 assists in the league and Champions League. He limped off just after half time at Anfield but is expected to return on Tuesday despite missing the 0-0 draw away to Everton in Saturday’s Merseyside derby. In midfield, Liverpool will definitely be without the suspended Jordan Henderson.
The general consensus amongst our recommended US sports betting websites seems to be that Man City will emerge victorious, but that Liverpool will progress to the final four. Some statistical prediction models suggest that City have less than half as much chance of making it through as the bookies’ odds would indicate, meaning that backing Liverpool to progress may make sense for those seeking margin, even if the odds are far from attractive enough to suggest that as a genuine pick.
In the circumstances, backing City to at least claw back some of their deficit, and then waiting to see if a miracle occurs from there, seems a solid play.