The Champions League’s quarter-final deciders are upon us, with holders Real Madrid boasting a healthy 3-0 advantage when they welcome Juventus – the team they also thrashed in last term’s decider – to Santiago Bernabeu.
Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo, as ever, was the star man in Turin last week. He tapped in the first, produced a phenomenal bicycle kick for the second and teed up Brazil left-back Marcelo for the third.
This has put the Old Lady up against it on Wednesday night, especially as Argentina forward Paulo Dybala misses out through suspension.
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The Premier League leaders bowed out of the competition on Tuesday despite launching a spirited fightback in their quarter-final against Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium.
Jesus struck in the second minute as City made a stunning start in their attempts to overturn a 3-0 first-leg deficit but the task ultimately proved beyond them on a compelling but controversial night.
City were stung by an incorrect decision to disallow a Leroy Sane goal for offside and, as Liverpool weathered the storm, second-half strikes from Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino secured a 5-1 aggregate success.
“It’s difficult to take,” said Jesus. “It wasn’t what we wanted but this is part of football.
“We didn’t play great in the two games but we congratulate Liverpool and focus on the six games we have until the end of the season to wrap up the title.”
City played at high intensity as they completely dominated the first half and produced numerous chances to further reduce the arrears after Jesus’ opener.
The drama was at its most fierce just before the break as Bernardo Silva hit the post and Sane was then thwarted by a flag raised wrongly after the ball came to him off Liverpool’s James Milner.
That prompted some angry protests that continued after the half-time whistle, with City boss Pep Guardiola sent to the stands for complaining to referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz.
Jesus said: “We managed to score very early, in the second minute which was very important, and then after that we managed to control the ball and keep it in their half.
“Then we had a goal disallowed for Sane and that was difficult to take because it affected the game a little bit.
“But it’s hard to talk about a goal, and whether it’s allowed or not. It is part of football and sometimes these things happen.”
It has been a difficult week for City, with their two losses to Liverpool coming either side of a derby defeat by Manchester United.
The United loss denied them the chance to wrap up the Premier League title with a record six games to spare and they may now need another two victories to secure the crown.
The title could be won if City win at Tottenham on Saturday and United lose to West Brom on Sunday, but failing that the wait could go on to games against Swansea or West Ham later this month.
Jesus, 21, said: “We didn’t manage to win the first leg at Liverpool, against United we allowed them to overcome our lead and then it happened again. I can’t find a specific reason for it, it just happened.
“But it’s heads up. There are six games to go and we must focus on that, finish the season with a Premier League trophy. It’s nearly done but now we need to wrap it up.”
However, after a verbal kick up the backside from Lovren and some tactical input from Klopp, the second half proved to be a totally different affair with Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino scoring to secure a 2-1 win and 5-1 aggregate victory.
“To be honest I was shouting a bit at half-time,” said Lovren. “I told the lads to wake up because it was not good enough and I said we were sitting too deep.
“Of course Klopp said ‘Yes you are sitting too deep because you are not pushing up’. He wanted me and Virg (Virgil van Dijk) to be more compact and push the team up, but it was quite difficult to push up when City had the ball.
“It was all positive, there was nothing negative, but I needed to remind the guys that we had 50 minutes to be in the semi-finals of the Champions League and we needed to give more.
“The first 10-15 minutes wasn’t good enough. When you see the second half, again they had a couple of chances but nothing too serious.”
The victory was Liverpool’s second in a week over the Premier League champions-elect and their third over Guardiola’s side – who have lost just seven matches in all competitions – this season.
It extended Klopp’s impressive personal record against the Catalan to eight wins and one draw from their 14 meetings, better than any of his contemporaries.
The frustration for Liverpool is that they have not been able to convert that into more of a challenge on the domestic front, trailing City by 17 points in the league.
“The regret is definitely the first six or seven games of the season in the Premier League,” added Lovren.
“We had many draws and they took us out of the first place. I would say we didn’t have any luck with injuries again and City didn’t have injuries all season.
“It was weird because we didn’t catch up well from the beginning. I’m definitely confident that next season we can push everyone, even ourselves, to do better from the beginning to the end.
“They deserve to be champions but we are in good shape now and hopefully we can go to the final and it can be a good season for us. Also, we need to finish in the top four for next season.”
With 12-time winners Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, who have won it five times, expected to complete the semi-final line-up alongside Liverpool and Roma, who stunned Barcelona, Lovren is clear who he wants to avoid in the last four.
“From a personal point of view I don’t want Real Madrid in the semi-finals. They have a lot of experience in the Champions League, a lot of records and over the past three seasons it is always them,” he said.
“But whoever we get will find it difficult to come to Anfield and score some goals.
“When you concede one goal and score five against Manchester City I think we should respect Liverpool more.
“People talked from the beginning about Manchester City being favourites and they were favourites, but I think after this there should be more respect for Liverpool.”