Wednesday brings another exciting day of Champions League football.
Liverpool vs. Man City
This fixture should be epic!
Liverpool in years since Benitez left had been a side with plenty of history but not one which offered no real threat to any top teams in the Premier League. That of course changed under Brendan Rodgers and they came ever so close to ending their poor run only to slip up (pun intended) at the last moment. Liverpool decided it was time to make some changes so they appointed Jürgen Klopp in the winter of 2015. What followed has been gradual improvement, an implementation of a philosophy (gegenpressing*), and a mixture of smart buy’s and promotion of youth. Klopp and Pochettino are similar in that they have not won anything in recent years but what they have built at their respective clubs should bring them trophies sooner rather than later. This season Liverpool have reeked havoc in the Premier League and Europe obliterating teams with their front three of Sadio Mané, Mohammed Salah, and Robert Firmino.
It was thought that losing Coutinho to Barcelona would cause a few problems but that has not been the case. Liverpool’s standout player this season has been Mohammed Salah. 34 goals in 36 games is an amazing return for any player and Salah is on course to reach 40+ goals this season. The front three of Liverpool are what make them tick as elsewhere on the pitch Liverpool do tend to lack quality. Karius has been able to push Mignolet out to become the first choice goalkeeper but he is definitely not a great goalkeeper. Defence wise Liverpool usually have a back four of Robertson, Matip, Van Dijk, and Alexander-Arnold. Liverpool’s defence has been known to concede goals although Robertson has been a standout performer in the left back slot. The midfield is an area where Liverpool probably need to add some creativity and grit. The summer arrival of Keita should fix that problem but for now they can rely on experienced players like Milner, Henderson and Oxlade Chamberlain to do the job.
One would need a dedicated blog to describe how amazing City have been this season. Manchester City unlike Liverpool tend not to dwell much on finances and usually can buy who they want when they want. They did just that last season by hiring Pep Guardiola and gave him money to buy players he wanted in the team. Last season Pep was still implementing his philosophy at Manchester City and it at times seemed that the pace and unpredictability of the Premier League caught him off guard. Last summer Pep brought in numerous defensive reinforcements as well as sold the dead weight of the squad. After spending around 400 million pounds in total City are have torn apart the Premier League this season. Almost all players in the team have been consistent throughout the season whether it be Ederson and the defence providing clean sheets, the creativity of De Bruyne and Silva providing goals and assists, or the attacking prowess of Sané, Sterling, Aguero, and Jesus.
The recent league meeting at Anfield was a showcase of attacking masterclass finishing in a 4-3 win for Liverpool. The defence of both teams made several errors throughout the game and Liverpool led 4-1 till the 84th minute. As mentioned before Liverpool’s defence has been suspect and that almost led to them losing 2 of the 3 points.
Do not expect any of the players to hold back, Liverpool will be hoping to defend their heart out at Anfield while nicking a goal or two. The same can be said for City, both teams will not want to slip up but there can only be one winner.
Barcelona vs. AS Roma
Barcelona lead their league by 9 points are unbeaten this season with only 8 games to play. While Barcelona used to be known as the Tiki Taka playing attacking machine under Pep, Valverde has balanced the team out bringing better performances defensively as well. Barcelona’s main threat remains Lionel Messi as was proved in the 2-2 draw in Seville at the weekend. Without Messi Barcelona are much less daunting and as was showcased in the round of 16 tie against Chelsea where if it were not for Messi and Chelsea’s inefficiency Barca could have been knocked out.
With nothing left to play for in Serie A except remaining 3rd, Roma can focus all their energy on this tie. Their champions league performances this season have shown that they have plenty of attacking talent in the form of Dzeko, Shaarawy, Perotti etc. Their midfield and defence is also packed with players in good form such as Nainggolan, and Manolas.
Roma and Barca both had decent opposition in the round of 16 with Shakhtar, and Chelsea respectively. As Roma will be looking to get an away goal at the Camp Nou which is no easy task while Barcelona will try to score a few at home to take to Rome for the return leg. This tie could be close but if Messi is on form and plays well in both legs Barcelona will probably reach the next stage.