Liverpool and Manchester City will define each other’s seasons in league and cup double-header

At this fixture’s peak in the late 1970s, Nottingham Forest and Liverpool played 13 times in the space of three seasons. By contrast, Sunday’s reunion was the first meeting in 23 years, and it has been even longer since this was considered the biggest game in English football’s calendar. Plenty has changed in that time, for one club more than the other, but none of the old intensity was lost at the City Ground.

A breathless FA Cup quarter-final was enriched by the friendly but keenly felt rivalry, renewed in a very different football landscape when compared to its origins. Forest lived up to the occasion. Had they frustrated Liverpool to the point of forcing extra time, as seemed likely until Diogo Jota’s late winner, Jurgen Klopp and his players could have had few complaints.

But at the final whistle, once the relieved Liverpool players had celebrated achieving a first FA Cup semi-final appearance in Klopp’s six years, attentions quickly shifted elsewhere. After all, this meeting of two old adversaries in the quarter-finals had set up a semi between their modern day equivalents. Manchester City, for their part, had beaten Southampton to reach the last four only a few hours earlier.

As convincing as the 4-1 scoreline from St Mary’s appeared, it was at least a little flattering. Like Liverpool, City were made to work for their place at Wembley. Just as Philip Zinckernagel had a chance to hand Forest the lead before Jota’s decisive goal, Che Adams had a chance to turn things Southampton’s way shortly before Kevin De Bruyne’s turning point of a penalty.

If the last four or five years have taught us anything though, it is that quality usually shines through, and that these two have quality in abundance. Together, theirs is the defining rivalry of this era of English football. It is set for another instalment in the FA Cup semi-finals, not long after they meet at the Etihad in a game that could go a long way to deciding the destination of the Premier League title.

Some City supporters will look at those two games with a particular sense of trepidation as they are boxed in on either side by the two-legged Champions League quarter-final against Atletico Madrid. It has been argued that Friday’s draw in Nyon could only have been worse for Pep Guardiola’s side if they had drawn Liverpool, leaving us with a quadruple-header to contend with.

Phil Foden’s goal was the pick of Manchester City’s against Southampton (Andrew Matthews/PA)

(PA Wire)

Atletico, under Diego Simeone, will be an entirely different prospect but more importantly, an unknown one. Guardiola has only come up against Simeone three times during his career, winning twice and losing once. One of those wins was a few months after Simeone’s appointment. The other was technically a defeat, with Bayern Munich going out on away goals in the 2015-16 semi-finals despite winning the second leg 2-1.

Whether Simeone’s idiosyncratic style of play will exploit what few weaknesses City have is a fair and open question, particularly as Guardiola will have the Liverpool fixtures to consider of either side. It does not start and end there, either. The Atletico-Liverpool-Atletico-Liverpool run is bookended by trips to Turf Moor and Molineux, where City have dropped points in the past under Guardiola.

Yet any City supporters fretting over their fixture list should probably also glance at Liverpool’s for good measure. “We have Watford, Benfica, City, Benfica, City, United, Everton [after the international break],” Klopp helpfully pointed out at the City Ground. “From a Liverpool perspective, these are all massive games. We try to play them one at a time and not all together.”

With all due respect to Benfica, third in the Primeira Liga and with an interim manager in charge, they were the pick of opponents in the last eight but will still be a test after overcoming an impressive Ajax. Everton and Manchester United are regularly putting in performances ranging from disappointing to dreadful but will be different propositions than usual.

Whatever the challenges that other opponents and fixtures pose, though, there is already a sense that City and Liverpool could ultimately define each other’s seasons: first in the league and cup double-header, then in a potential Champions League final between the two in Paris, made possible by the breakdown of Friday’s draw. Klopp was expecting as much, either way.

“We knew before the game City would be the opponent if we wanted to go to the [FA Cup] Final anyway. Now here we go,” he said. “The further you go in whichever competition, the more likely you are you will face City at one point.” That tends to be the way when you are one of the two leading teams of a particular era. As with Forest and Liverpool in the late 1970s, so with City and Liverpool today.

Source link

Denial of responsibility! galaxyconcerns is an automatic aggregator around the global media. All the content are available free on Internet. We have just arranged it in one platform for educational purpose only. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials on our website, please contact us by email – [email protected]. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.