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After Manchester City and Liverpool drew 2-2 last weekend, the Premier League title race looks set to go down to the wire. Pep Guardiola’s side have a slender one-point advantage with seven rounds of fixtures still to play, while Jurgen Klopp’s team have a superior goal difference. Remarkably, since the start of the 2018/19 campaign, City have accumulated 338 points and Liverpool have racked up 337. Over a sustained period, there has been virtually nothing to choose between these two teams, who are probably the best in Europe right now.
City and Liverpool are on course to meet in the final of this season’s Champions League, but the draw for the FA Cup means only one of them can reach the Wembley showpiece in the middle of May. Chelsea and Crystal Palace will contest the other semi-final on Saturday, but the winner of Sunday’s match will begin the final as favorites such is the strength of both City and Liverpool.
The two sides could not be separated last time out. Kevin De Bruyne and Gabriel Jesus twice gave City the lead at the Etihad Stadium, but Liverpool pegged the home team back via goals from Diogo Jota and Sadio Mane on either side of half-time.
A 2-2 draw was a fair reflection of how the match unfolded. City were the better team in the first half, taking advantage of Liverpool’s high defensive line with some well-timed passes in behind, but Klopp’s men succeeded in playing their way back into the match. The first meeting between these two sides in 2021/22 also ended 2-2, and few would bet against a repeat of that scoreline on Saturday.
Both teams were involved in a continental competition in midweek. It is fair to say that Liverpool had the more straightforward assignment. Having beaten Benfica 3-1 away from home last week, the Reds already had one foot in the semi-finals before Wednesday’s second leg.
They also had the advantage of playing on home turf. Klopp left several key men out of his starting XI, including Mohamed Salah, Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho, Sadio Mane and Trent Alexander-Arnold, as Liverpool drew 3-3 with the Portuguese outfit. Some of those players did enter the fray as second-half substitutes, but others remained on the bench for the full hour and a half.
Manchester City, by contrast, were put through its paces in Spain. A 1-0 victory over Atletico Madrid in the first leg meant the tie was still alive ahead of the return fixture. City dug deep to eke out a 0-0 draw at the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano, but Atletico deserved to win the second leg on the balance of play.
City were put under real pressure in the second half of what was a bruising contest. Kyle Walker and Kevin De Bruyne both limped off and are doubts for Saturday. Guardiola said in the aftermath that his team are in “big trouble” with injuries ahead of the Liverpool game. He may well have been exaggerating and at the time of writing there appears to be a chance that at least one of Walker or De Bruyne will be passed fit to feature, but City would no doubt have preferred a gentler match three days before the semi-final.
There has been much discussion of late about whether Manchester City vs Liverpool is the best rivalry in Premier League history. It is increasingly difficult to argue that these two teams are not the strongest England’s top flight has seen in the modern era.
Alex Ferguson produced several brilliant sides at Manchester United, and Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger brought considerable success to Chelsea and Arsenal respectively. Yet for the first time since the Premier League was launched, its two best teams are also the strongest in Europe.
Of course, that does not necessarily mean this rivalry is better than those which went before. There is little animosity between the two managers and the two sets of players. That arguably reduces the entertainment value in comparison with, say, Manchester United vs Arsenal in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
One thing is for sure, though: we will be in for a treat when Manchester City and Liverpool lock horns again this weekend. Both teams look to play front-foot, attack-minded soccer no matter the opposition. The game at the Etihad was outstanding and there is no reason to expect anything different on Saturday.
City and Liverpool are evenly matched, so small differences – such as in terms of preparation – can have a significant effect. The Reds should be fresher both physically and mentally, so back them to win this semi-final.
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|Manchester City vs Liverpool Information|
|Teams||Manchester City vs Liverpool|
|Location||Wembley Stadium, London, England|
|Time||Saturday, 16 April 2022, 10.30 AM EDT|
|How to watch||ESPN+|
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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