The FA Cup semi-final between the Premier League’s two heavyweight clubs could not come at a better time for Liverpool.
Jurgen Klopp and his men should be fresher. The Reds got to rest players for the Champions League quarter-final second leg against Benfica, while Manchester City not only had to travel but must now handle the fallout from Wednesday night’s mad scenes against Atletico Madrid.
City had a couple of players come off against Atletico during that stormy affair and you have to wonder how fit defender Kyle Walker and midfielder Kevin De Bruyne can be for the showdown at Wembley on Saturday afternoon.
True, City have a massive squad, so if anyone can cope, they can. I just think if you look at Liverpool, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane got a rest against Benfica at Anfield on Wednesday, just having a gentle run-out at the end when the tie was already won.
You’d like to think those two will be on fire this weekend now, and that could be the difference. The two of them can majorly hurt City. And if one team wins big today, then if they do meet again in the Champions League final further down the line it could give the winner a big psychological edge. If Liverpool won by a two or three-goal margin they could ride the wave all the way to becoming European champions. After all, they have done it before.
I’m convinced both teams can get to the final of Europe’s biggest club competition. City may have had a battle to come through against Atletico but I dread to think what they can do with the Spanish team’s neighbours Real. They will go toe to toe and for me there is only one winner. The other semi will be harder than people think. Villarreal are very disciplined, won’t open the game up, and will make it tough for Liverpool.
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But I, 100 per cent, expect it to be an all-English final. And it’s nice how it’s all swung around so people can see the quality of our football again. It was an all-English final last year so that would mean two in a row, whereas a few years ago we were getting slaughtered, with everyone saying Spain had the best league. Not any more. Now we’re back dominating again. It’s good. Premier League football takes a lot of stick sometimes. But English teams are dominating.
As if the tension between these two clubs isn’t high enough already, a one-off European final would ramp it up another notch. And there is more pressure for City because if they lose in the final again Pep Guardiola’s men would have to answer serious questions. Being in with the chance of Europe’s biggest prize doesn’t happen often. City were beaten by Chelsea last year and if they get through again only to lose it will be devastating.
Let’s be honest. Guardiola is at that club to win them the Champions League. He’s not there just to win Premier League titles. With the money they’ve spent and the squad they’ve got, they want to be winning the biggest prize. Today, though, it is Wembley and a chance for both clubs to reach another final. It’s going to be tasty.
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