After Liverpool‘s shock 3-0 victory over Manchester City in the first-leg of the Champions League quarter final at Anfield last Wednesday night, the Reds stand on the edge of their first semi-final appearance in this competition since 2007/08.
It’s nearly impossible for City to come back and win the tie but as Barcelona showed last year – anything is possible.
Here are Seven Deadly Stats ahead of Tuesday’s second leg.
ODDS HEAVILY IN LIVERPOOL’S FAVOUR
Based on historical results in all European competitions, Liverpool have a 94% chance of going through to the semi-finals at this point. Longer odds have been overcome, of course – last season, Barcelona had a 0% chance of overturning their 4-0 first-leg deficit to PSG in the Round of 16. Somebody just forgot to tell Lionel Messi, Neymar, and company.
Manchester City will no doubt be using that match as inspiration.
KLOPP HAS PEP’S NUMBER
Seven wins in 13 games against the manager hailed as the greatest of his era – that’s not a bad record at all for Jurgen Klopp. The Liverpool manager had success against Pep Guardiola when they were both in the Bundesliga, leading Borussia Dortmund to four wins in eight meetings against Guardiola’s Bayern Munich, and he’s extended that record when the two managers have duelled in England.
Guardiola’s lone victory over Klopp as Manchester City came this season, however, and it does provide evidence that a comeback is on – City beat Liverpool 5-0 at the Etihad Stadium in September, albeit it took a Sadio Mane red card for Liverpool for the game to become so one-sided.
AN UNWANTED FIRST FOR PEP?
Pep Guardiola has a perfect record in Champions League quarter-finals so far: played seven, won seven. If he pulls off a comeback, he’ll join Jose Mourinho as the only managers to have reached eight semi-finals in this competition.
HISTORY DOESN’T BODE WELL FOR CITY
To reach the semi-finals, Manchester City will have to do something they’ve never done before in their history. The Cityzens have never overcome a three-goal deficit in European or domestic competition regardless of whether they’ve been playing the second leg at home or away.
LIVERPOOL’S EUROPEAN HERITAGE
What will give Liverpool encouragement – if the three-goal lead isn’t enough – is that they don’t lose by three goals in Europe. It hasn’t happened in a European away game in over 20 years; a 3-0 loss in the UEFA Cup to RC Strasbourg in 1997. Heritage isn’t just about raucous Anfield crowds.
A RED GOAL GLUT
Another blow in favour of the red corner is their remarkable goal record this season. They’ve scored 31 times in the Champions League, the most they’ve ever scored in a single European campaign. As a benchmark, last season, only Real Madrid scored more – 36 in their run to the trophy. A reminder: if Liverpool score just once on Tuesday, City will need to score five times to progress.
THEY’VE GOT SALAH
If Mo Salah is fit, he’ll be in prime position to break or at least tie yet another record in his stunning debut season for Liverpool. He’s currently on seven Champions League goals for the season – the most by an African player is eight (Samuel Eto’o, for Inter Milan in 2010/11).
*Stats provided by Gracenote
Few teams arrive at the Etihad Stadium these days as clear favourites but that’s precisely the dream scenario Liverpool have conjured for themselves in the second leg of the Champions League quarter-finals.
The Reds carry a 3-0 first leg advantage into this fixture. Both sides were involved in local Premier League derbies over the weekend but while Liverpool rested several players and came through unscathed, Manchester City had to call upon some of their stars and still suffered defeat at the hands of their neighbours.
The Citizens now hope to put the humiliation of losing to Manchester United behind them by pulling off an unlikely comeback of their own and here’s how they can go about it.
Jurgen Klopp has beaten Guardiola seven times in 13 meetings and it appears to have affected the Spaniard, whose system is so well-constructed that it rarely requires wholesale changes on account of the opposition’s threat.
The fact that Guardiola has given Liverpool special dispensation should be received as a massive compliment for Klopp. His tactics in the first leg were tailored to the challenge the Reds offered and while there’s nothing wrong with that, he did seem to go overboard.
He began with a lopsided formation, controversially leaving Raheem Sterling out of the line-up and playing Ilkay Gundogan as a narrow right-sided midfielder. The thought process was coherent though. The German’s inclusion meant added support in central midfield, hopefully translating to greater dominance in possession while affording Kyle Walker the licence to venture forward into vacant space.
Such asymmetry seemed also designed to direct City’s approach down the left where Leroy Sane’s pace and trickery could cause Trent Alexander-Arnold problems, with Mohamed Salah not likely to fall back as much. Meanwhile, Walker could be available in space on the right for the quick switch.
Liverpool struck on the break though and Guardiola, rather than sticking to his game plan – as complicated as it was – went further down the rabbit hole when he appeared to switch to a diamond system with Sane joining Gabriel Jesus up front.
City weren’t able to cope with the high press though and were hit again, prompting Guardiola to react again, pushing Walker further forward and reverting to a back three. As tactically aware and well-drilled as his players are, in the heat of battle, sometimes less is better.
SLOW AND STEADY
Liverpool hold a healthy advantage and don’t need to start the game on the front foot. In fact, focusing on containing City would probably be the wise move. However, Jurgen Klopp doesn’t strike us as an individual who conforms to popular opinion. He’s more than happy to colour outside the lines.
As such, the Reds may fly at City from kick-off and hope to knock the stuffing out of them and their home support.
The Citizens must attempt to dominate possession early on, poking and prodding at the Reds’ defence. They can’t afford to be too ambitious from the onset and get hit in the transition, as they were ruthlessly in the first leg.
For a team that’s been as dominant as they have in the Premier League, City have shown that they can be rattled and they were twice over the span of four days. Liverpool sliced through them in the first leg like a (red) hot knife through butter in the first half at Anfield. The Blues were then caught in the headlights when Paul Pogba initiated Manchester United’s comeback on Saturday.
As a collective, City need to be able to take one on the chin now and then rather than wildly swinging away like a punch-drunk boxer. The players need to have more composure about them and foster the ability to ride out a storm.
Perhaps they need to be afforded the freedom to go long to cope with the high press and relieve some pressure. Liverpool were repeatedly caught out by United who went long and reaped the benefits. Guardiola may have to do it through gritted teeth, but perhaps taking a leaf out of Mourinho’s book is in order?
Goalkeeper Loris Karius insists he is living the dream playing for Liverpool in a Champions League quarter-final.
He insists he returns to former club Manchester City – with a 3-0 lead from the first leg – with no anger at not getting a chance to play for their first team.
“It is nice to play in that stadium where you were for a couple of years and didn’t get a first-team appearance – at least I get to play now,” said the German, who spent two seasons at City between 2009 and 2011 as a teenager but only played for the under-18s and under-21s.
“I am happy I am a Liverpool player and that’s about it. There are no special feelings towards it, no anger.
“I am just happy I am playing in a Champions League quarter-final: it’s a dream and I’m living it with Liverpool. It is perfect for me and it will be nice to go back there.”
Asked how much City has changed since he was there Karius added: “I know about three people in the club: the kit man, two physios and Brian Kidd (assistant coach), that’s about it.
“The club moved forward really fast and then Pep Guardiola has changed a lot.
“It is going really well there but it is not for me to judge, just focus on Tuesday, but they played a really good season.”
For all the advances Guardiola has made in 18 months at City Karius believes Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is carving out his own path to success at Anfield.
“The manager is building his own thing here and he is doing really well with a lot of good stuff,” added the goalkeeper.
“You can really see over time he has been manager how we have progressed and become much stronger pretty much month by month.
“It is nice to be part of this journey and I don’t think it’s finished yet. It is really exciting and the manager changed a lot to the positive as well.”
Karius has kept six clean sheets in his last seven Champions League matches but knows the trip to the Etihad is likely to present the toughest challenge to his recent good record.
“It’s not going to be easy. Of course when we go into the game City will come at us from the first minute and try to get an early goal – that’s what I would say if I were their manager,” he said.
“We have to keep calm and try to score ourselves because then they need to score five and that’s not easy against us.
“I don’t think three will easy for them but we need to be ready and a goal is always a good idea.
“The whole team kept them out on Wednesday because the three up front were defending. That is the job again on Tuesday.
“You could see in the second half (of the first leg) we were tucked in and it was difficult to defend and they came through more than they did in the first half so I don’t think we should sit too far back.
“We should play our game like we did in the first leg because that is what made us so strong. We shouldn’t change from the first game.”