As someone who has featured for both teams, Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be watching the two-legged clash with interest. The Swedish international believes that Paul Pogba and Lionel Messi are the two players who can make a difference for their respective sides in this crucial tie.
Although it’s a team sport, the striker believes that both the players have enough quality to make the difference single-handedly.
“I think it will be a very interesting game. Two big teams, two big clubs playing against each other,” Ibrahimovic told Barcelona’s official website.
“Both teams with great history and it will be exciting to see and fantastic players in each team. Let’s see who will be the strongest on the day. Obviously, Messi makes the difference in each game he plays, it’s no secret. I think for United, you have Pogba making the difference there.
“It will be more of a battle between Messi and Pogba, even if it’s a collective sport. I think in these games it’s all about the teams, not an individual player, but these are the players that make the difference so it will be interesting.”
Naby Keita’s strike took a big deflection to spark celebrations at Anfield as early as the fifth minute before Trent Alexander-Arnold set up Roberto Firmino to make it 2-0 to the hosts less than 20 minutes later.
Eder Militao, the highly-rated young centre-back who signed for Real Madrid in January for a reported €50m, was in action against the Reds before he begins his career in Spain from next season.
He had a tough test against Mohamed Salah and here, we analyse his performance.
Passes – 23
Pass accuracy – 78.3%
Tackles – 6
Interceptions – 2
Clearances – 4
Blocks – 2
Fouls – 0
Dispossessed – 1
Militao had his hands full right from the start with a lively Salah to contend with. Porto as a unit were a bit erratic, looking to attack Liverpool with quick forward passes. However, that usually meant the hosts were allowed opportunities to win possession back swiftly and were usually successful.
The front three of Salah, Sadio Mane and Firmino were able to come to life during numerous transitions. Militao had to be on his toes and largely coped well with Salah’s threat though he did seem to suffer from lapses in concentration when there were runs made off the ball.
Playing on the left of a central defensive three for Porto, Militao had the unenviable task of going toe-to-toe with Salah but held his own in what was arguably the most captivating battle on the pitch.
Whenever the Egyptian ran at him, he positioned his body well and was equal to the attacker’s dribbling, thwarting him time and again. It’s no surprise that he won a six tackles, more than any other team-mate.
While he came out on top when facing Salah head on, it was his awareness that was lacking when the Liverpool forward ran off his shoulder or drifted inside. While Militao can’t be expected to shadow Salah all over the field, he failed to hand him off to a team-mate and when he allowed the forward to roam unmarked, he often failed to pick up Trent Alexander-Arnold’s run on the outside.
There was one moment when Salah gave him the slip with a little feint, allowing a pass to run across him and then chase after it in behind which really exposed the Portuguese.
There’s some good for Madrid to work with but unfortunately, Militao seems to exhibit the same shortcomings that so many Los Blancos defenders have struggled with in the past. He has great attributes and is a fine athlete. He is capable of making eye-catching interventions as well but it’s the finer aspects of defending where he’s found wanting. The ability to suss out danger and be a step ahead of a striker is where he does not impress.
Harry Kane suffered a potential season-ending injury as Tottenham were left to count the cost of a stunning Champions League win over Manchester City.
Son Heung-min struck late on as Spurs claimed a first-leg advantage in the all-Premier League quarter-final with a 1-0 victory at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
But the gloss was taken off the success by fears their talisman Kane, the England captain, could face another lengthy lay-off with an ankle injury.
Kane rolled the joint as he challenged Fabian Delph for the ball just before the hour. To compound matters, Delph then caught him on the ankle.
Kane, who was out for more than a month after suffering ankle ligament damage in January, was carried straight down the tunnel and later left the stadium on crutches wearing a protective boot.
“It is so painful,” said manager Mauricio Pochettino. “We hope it is not a big issue and try to recover as soon as possible but it doesn’t look good.”
Asked if he was worried Kane’s season could be over, Pochettino said: “Yes.”
Pochettino felt Delph could have been sent off for the challenge but did absolve the City defender of blame for the injury.
He said: “I said to him, ‘You were lucky’. Checking on the VAR, maybe technically it was a red card but I think both were fighting for a ball and had no intention to damage each other.”
Spurs will now take an unexpected advantage into the second leg against quadruple-chasing City at the Etihad Stadium next week.
“I am happy with the performance and the way we approached the game,” said Pochettino.
“We still have a lot of work to do. Manchester City are still the favourites to win the Champions League and it is going to be tough.”
City were below par and spurned an early chance to take the initiative when Sergio Aguero had a penalty saved by Hugo Lloris. The spot-kick had also been awarded controversially by VAR for handball against Danny Rose.
Yet manager Pep Guardiola was still able to review the performance in a positive light.
Guardiola said: “Except for a few chances we conceded on set-pieces and counter-attacks we controlled the game. When we don’t play good I am the guy who says we didn’t play good, but I don’t have that feeling.”
Provided by Press Association Sport