Champions League Quarterfinals Preview: Manchesteer City
For this preview, Zach Lowy chats to City Watch writer Lewis Steele on City’s chances going into the game.
Your expectations for this tie?
I go into the tie not really knowing what to expect – on the one hand I feel like we have the quality to progress over the two legs, however on the other hand I fear what Liverpool can do. The Liverpool front three should be a big fear for any team in the world, but then again so should City’s. If City overcome the Anfield hoodoo, they will have too much quality for Liverpool and progress to the semi-finals. Liverpool are the only team to have beaten City in the Premier League this season.
Would you consider them as Guardiola’s kryptonite?
But for ten or fifteen minutes in the 4-3 at Anfield, City were toe-to-toe with Klopp’s side. That being said, the way Liverpool play with the counter-press and fast intensity football, they are a real menace for City’s defenders. I think they are Guardiola’s bogey team, but that league defeat will be long forgotten if City pull off a win over two legs in Europe.
What have you made of Aymeric Laporte since arriving in Manchester in January? Saturday’s game away at Everton was by far Aymeric’s best outing in a City shirt. Playing out of his natural position at left-back, Aymeric was one of the best players on the pitch, and most of City’s promising play was down the left hand flank with the trio of Laporte, Sané and Silva. When playing in the middle, mainly with Otamendi, Laporte has been satisfactory. He looks calm on the ball, and tactically assured off the ball. However, a couple of times he has looked vulnerable, particularly in cases of long balls in behind to strikers such as Jamie Vardy. Despite this, signing Laporte in January was perfect – it will give him that crucial six-month bedding in period that defenders often need in the Premier League, without the pressure of chasing a title for example.
Is this City team ready to win the 2018 CL?
Are they ready? Yes. Will they win it? Doubt it. A Pep Guardiola team is always ready to win the Champions League, we have the game-plan and individual talent to win any game. However, I have big doubts. When watching Madrid, not just last night, it takes five minutes to notice one thing – they are a side full of winners. Cristiano, Ramos Modric, Kroos, Marcelo – the list goes on – both Madrid and Barca have players who have ‘been there, done that’ a number of times. Experience is crucial in this competition, and I am not sure if City have that big-game experience to overcome the nerves of a Champions League tie with Barca or Madrid.
Are there any players on City who’ve been underperforming lately, who need to step up today?
This is a tough question, and I’d be scraping the barrel to pinpoint one individual player, so I have picked two players who haven’t necessarily been poor recently, but need to step up to the occasion. Firstly, Raheem Sterling – since his move from Liverpool, the English winger hasn’t performed against his former club – that needs to change tonight. He has shown he is one of the best wingers in the league this season, tonight he needs to do that against Liverpool. Secondly, whoever plays left-back will need to have their performance of the season. I have a hunch it will be Fabian Delph – the one thing he cannot afford to do is let his discipline problems get the better of him, he cannot get booked early on.
Should City advance past Liverpool, do you think Benjamin Mendy will be back before the CL semis?
When he originally got injured, the target date was the CL semis. It seems he is running a couple of weeks ahead of schedule, luckily. My worry is that he will be rushed back into the team and struggle for both form and fitness – Pep needs to manage his game time to perfection over the next month – he could be the difference in a CL semi.
Who do you think deserves to win Player Of The Year in the Premier League? Salah scores goals, De Bruyne wins titles. Simple as that. Mo Salah’s season has been exceptional, reminiscent of Torres and Suarez’ respective best seasons in a Liverpool shirt, however Kevin De Bruyne has had a ‘man of the match’ performance in nearly every big 6 v big 6 affair, this season. Without De Bruyne’s individual talent in said games, there is no way City would be where they are. (1. De Bruyne, 2. Salah, 3. David Silva)
Are there any areas in which Liverpool are better than Manchester City at? Another tough question – City have the best goalkeeper, defence and midfield by far. As for attacking, I would say Salah-Firmino-Mané is on par with Sterling-Aguero-Sané. As for better, I am not sure.
How do you think City will try to play this time around? Any different to the 3-4 loss this season?
Pep said yesterday he will not change a thing in terms of how they approach the game. In that Anfield game, City were without David Silva and Vincent Kompany – having this duo back is massive, both on and off the pitch. Kompany and Silva are not only the two longest-serving players in the side, but the two biggest leaders on and off the pitch – this is vital.
Photo: OLI SCARFF/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES