The two remaining English participants in this season’s Champions League meet when Liverpool host Manchester City in the first leg of their quarter-final clash on Wednesday (19:45 BST, live on BT Sport 2).
All five Premier League entrants made it through the group stage of this year’s competition, only for Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur to fall at the last 16 stage. Now, just one team will progress to the semi-finals: Liverpool or Man City.
It should be an entertaining encounter. The two league matches between the sides this season produced 12 goals, and they are comfortably the two highest scoring teams in the Premier League. Champions League fixtures involving them have averaged four goals per match.
There is also the rivalry between the two head coaches, Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp, to spice up the action. They met eight times between 2013 and 2015 as coaches of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund respectively, recording four triumphs apiece (one of Klopp’s on penalties). In England, Klopp has two wins to Guardiola’s one, alongside one draw.
Liverpool are also the only side to have defeated champions-elect City in the Premier League this season. That triumph came in a pulsating 4-3 win at Anfield in January. The sides went into the break tied at a goal apiece, only for Liverpool to then score three quick-fire goals to establish a commanding lead with 20 minutes to play. Even then, Man City threatened to come back, scoring twice in the final minutes to make for a nervous conclusion.
It was a match that highlighted Liverpool’s offensive power. Their regular front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have scored 73 goals between them in league and Champions League play this season and have a skill set varied enough to cause serious trouble to most defences. Salah has been the standout star, scoring 36 goals across those two competitions.
Yet while their defensive unit has certainly improved as the season has gone on, it is still a relative weak point for Klopp’s side and one that could make the difference over the course of a two-legged knockout tie. It is difficult to see them preventing Man City scoring at least one away goal on Wednesday. As long as the margin between the sides is otherwise tight, that would set up Guardiola’s side well for the second leg on home soil.
City don’t have as illustrious a history as Liverpool in European competition, but they are hoping to add a few pages to theirs this season. This is only their second Champions League quarter-final appearance. Victory over the course of the two legs would see them equal their best showing in the competition, achieved in 2016.
Guardiola picked up his first piece of silverware in English football with City’s triumph over Arsenal in the Carabao Cup final in February. His side are now a victory at home to local rivals Manchester United next weekend from wrapping up the Premier League title with six matches to spare. Saturday’s 3-1 win away to Everton kept them on course to beat the Premier League records for wins, points and goals in a season.
Man City’s dominance of their domestic league this season has been more or less replicated in their progress through the Champions League, which included victories home and away to a dangerous Napoli side during the group stage. As the competition reaches its sharp end, they must now prove that they can contend with clubs who are far more accustomed to competing at this level – the likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.
Guardiola certainly has the tools at his disposal to do so. His side have both the best attack and the best defence in the Premier League, are able to mix spells of controlled yet progressive possession with swift and sharp attacks to cut through unbalanced defences, and have enough individual talent to tip the balance in their favour in marginal situations.
Liverpool have won five of their nine home matches against fellow English sides in European competition, including a 2-0 win over Manchester United in the Europa League round of 16 in 2016. They have always shown themselves capable of defeating City this season and the backing of the Kop will perhaps provide them with a slight edge on Wednesday. In what is sure to be an enthralling contest, they are the most likely first-leg victors and that view is reflected in this preview’s Liverpool v Man City betting tips.
Our Preview’s Liverpool vs. Man City Betting Tips Verdict
Having studied the betting markets on offer from the UK’s top rated sports betting sites, these are our preview’s selections: