As fate would have it, Liverpool were paired with runaway Premier League leaders, and fellow English outfit Manchester City in the 2018 Champions League quarter-finals.
With the majority of Liverpool fans and football fans alike already booking Manchester City’s place in the last four, it is not quite so easy to rule out a side that have been so ruthless in front of goal.
The first and perhaps the most obvious reason for Liverpool fans not to give up hope is their clinical front three.
Whilst Manchester City have drastically improved their defensive play from last season, they are still prone to the odd defensive mishap, and if City’s incompetence does indeed show through in either leg, one would imagine that Mohammed Salah, Roberto Firmino and or Sadio Mané will be on hand to capitalise.
In addition to this, another encouraging statistic is City’s dreadful record at Anfield.
In their last 30 matches played at Liverpool’s historic home, the Citizens have only managed to claim victory on one occasion, drawing nine times and suffering 20 defeats.
In the last match played between the two in Liverpool, the home side were eventual 4-3 winners, after a nervy end to the game, in which both defences looked overwhelmingly unstable.
With Jurgen Klopp this season mainly playing with a 4-3-3 at Liverpool, but still utilising his well-known ‘gegenpress’, many teams have found them explosive in attack and very difficult to counter.
If Liverpool do indeed press high up the pitch from early on in both legs and try to isolate players known for defensive errors, such as John Stones, Nicolás Otamendi or Danilo, Manchester City could be in for a long two legs.
One aspect of the game however, that will cause Liverpool fans immense concern is not Manchester City’s unmerciful attack, but their own defence.
In the previously mentioned 4-3 thriller at Anfield, two of Liverpool’s four goals came from errors at the back, and it can be argued that Liverpool’s first goal should have been saved.
The concern here arises from the fact that Liverpool were 4-1 up with less than ten minutes to go.
While they were cruising at 4-1, they conceded two goals in seven minutes that were completely avoidable, and were lucky to leave with all three points as talisman Sergio Agüero agonisingly hit the side netting in stoppage time.
Even more alarming for Liverpool fans is the fact that in the reverse fixture at the Etihad, their team looked incredibly unorganized and were convincingly trounced 5-0.
After Kevin De Bruyne sliced Liverpool’s defence open with a precise through pass to allow Agüero to round the keeper and take a 1-0 lead, Liverpool did look threatening on the counter.
However, after they were reduced to ten men following a dangerous head kick from Sadio Mané on opposition goalkeeper Ederson, City could play their own game at will and walked to a comfortable victory.
In fairness to Liverpool, their world record centre – half signing Virgil van Dijk was not yet at the club for the game at the Etihad and was not in the squad at Anfield.
On the other side of this point, however, one may point out that he has yet to have one standout game to justify his 75 million pound price tag and question what he could have done in either of these two games to reinforce Liverpool’s defence.
If Liverpool want to have any chance of advancing, they need Jurgen Klopp to finally prove his doubters wrong and set his team up in a way that City can not break them down.
While that is easier said than done, Klopp has experience on this stage having finished runner-up in this competition during his time in charge of Borussia Dortmund.
Overall, it will be Pep Guardiola’s side many expect to see in the pot for the semi-final draw but, regardless of the result, we should be in for an exciting, end-to-end, and , dare I say, competitive two legs…