The highly-anticipated grudge match between Liverpool and Manchester City kicks off in just a couple of hours’ time, and while form is often irrelevant in such important rivalries, the latest Champions League campaigns of both clubs may indicate just how exciting this game could be.
Looking at the form of both clubs already in this competition is frightening, especially considering both found the net in every game played. It could be argued that the teams within the groups were of a very similar standard, yet Liverpool and City were certainly tested on occasion, perhaps the latter more so than the former.
Liverpool may however head into the fixture with more confidence considering their unbeaten group stage run, where they won three and drew the other three. City, in contrast, managed five wins and one loss in their six group games, although boss Pep Guardiola had fielded a much-weakened starting 11 in their final encounter – a 2-1 loss at Shakhtar Donetsk – in order to focus on the Premier League as qualification into the next round had already been accomplished.
That decision has proved to be a sensible one, with City running riot at the top of English football, with the club falling to just one defeat in their 31 games to date; a 4-3 loss at the hands of none other than Liverpool at Anfield. City fans will however point to the fact they took apart the Reds in the reverse fixture – a 5-0 annihilation at the Etihad back in September.
Jurgen Klopp may in turn choose to favour his side’s Champions League form, with the formidable attacking threat of the Reds proving their worth with an extraordinary 23 goals in the group stage, nine more than City managed in their group. Liverpool will also take confidence from the fact they conceded just six goals from their six games, with City impressively conceding one fewer.
The Round of 16 furthermore suggests a similar outcome, with Man City having eased past Basel 5-2 on aggregate after a 4-0 away win in the first leg. What will give Liverpool fans hope is that, despite fielding a much-weakened side once again, Manchester City can be beaten at the Etihad, with Basel winning the second leg 2-1. Yet more confidence can be instilled in the Reds after their 5-0 demolition of Porto away from home, while adding yet another clean sheet to the tally in the goalless return leg draw at Anfield.
Regardless of statistics, the encounter promises to be fiery, enthralling and entertaining, but will it be Klopp’s Liverpool or Guardiola’s Man City who prevail victorious from the two-legged affair? One more thing is certain; the Liverpool fans will generate an atmosphere like no other as they welcome Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling and Co. to Merseyside, with the Kop promising to be louder than it has been for quite some time.
Whatever the result, the Liverpool faithful will be extremely grateful that the sensational European nights are back at Anfield, yet all will be left heartbroken should their adventure end over the next few weeks, particularly at the hands of the blue half of Manchester.