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It has been hard to separate Liverpool and Manchester City this season. With just four rounds of fixtures remaining, only one point separates the pair at the top of the Premier League table. City hold the advantage going into the weekend, but in the FA Cup it was Liverpool who triumphed with a 3-2 victory over Pep Guardiola’s side in last month’s semi-final at Wembley. In recent days, both teams found themselves on course to reach the Champions League final, with a showdown in Paris on May 28 seeming to lie in store.
Yet this week’s last-four second legs could not have gone any differently for the two teams locked in a battle for the Premier League title. On Tuesday, Liverpool went 2-0 down against Villarreal to surrender the lead they had built in the first leg. The Reds looked rattled at half-time of that contest, but they stabilized during the break and came out all guns blazing in the second half. A 3-2 win in Spain meant Liverpool ultimately advanced 5-2 on aggregate.
Manchester City looked set to join their domestic rivals at the Stade de France for the final. Riyad Mahrez’s goal late on in the second leg extended their lead over Real Madrid to 5-3. The aggregate scoreline stayed that way until second-half stoppage time, when a quickfire brace from Rodrygo restored parity in the most dramatic circumstances possible. Karim Benzema completed the job in extra time, converting a penalty to send Madrid to the final at City’s expense.
It is hard to see how the heartbreaking nature of their exit will not have an effect on City’s title ambitions. Guardiola’s men have the kinder fixture list in the coming weeks, but they will need to show tremendous mental strength to bounce back from such a low. It will be a test of character as much as quality.
Still, no one should expect the next few weeks to be plain sailing for Liverpool. Klopp will have to balance Premier League commitments with the FA Cup and the Champions League, whereas City can focus all their attention on their quest to retain the title. And as mentioned above, Liverpool have the trickier schedule – mainly because of the visit of Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday.
Spurs need the points for their own reasons. They are currently two behind their arch-rivals Arsenal in what has become a two-way tussle for the top four. There is a head-to-head meeting between the north London neighbors to come next week, but Tottenham need to remain within touching distance of Arsenal until then. A defeat at Anfield would hand the Gunners the initiative in the race to qualify for the Champions League, regardless of what happens in that head-to-head encounter.
Spurs are still not as consistent as Antonio Conte would like, although they have improved in that regard. Since Tottenham lost 2-0 to Wolverhampton Wanderers in the middle of February, only Liverpool have accumulated more points. Conte’s side have also scored the most goals per game during that time, and only their upcoming opponents, Manchester City and Crystal Palace possess better defensive records.
Liverpool have the advantage of playing a day earlier than Manchester City this weekend. That was also the case in the previous gameweek, but Guardiola’s side made light work of Leeds United a few hours after Liverpool had edged out Newcastle United at St James’ Park.
A victory over Tottenham would move the Reds two points clear at the top of the table. That would pile the pressure on City ahead of Newcastle’s trip to the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, which will not be a straightforward game for the champions.
Despite their loss to Liverpool, Newcastle are third in the table for accrued in 2022. The Magpies will also have had much longer to prepare for the game, while City could start slowly after the huge disappointment of Wednesday at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.
That is the worst-case scenario for City. Much better would be if Liverpool fail to get the job done against Tottenham. Conte’s side won 3-2 at the Etihad Stadium a few weeks back. They were the better team when they last locked horns with Liverpool in December.
They are also well suited to big matches like this, when they are afforded more space to break into in the final third. Harry Kane and Son Heung-min are two of the most talented attackers in Europe, and both players will be a thorn in Liverpool’s side on Saturday.
Spurs will struggle to win at Anfield, though; after all, the Reds have not lost on home turf in the Premier League all season. Go for a Liverpool win and both teams to score.
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|Liverpool vs Tottenham Hotspur Information|
|Teams||Liverpool vs Tottenham Hotspur|
|Location||Anfield, Liverpool, England|
|Time||Saturday, 7 May 2022, 2.45 PM EDT|
|How to watch||USA Network|
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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