Champions League: English clubs Manchester City and Liverpool paired in quarterfinals
If Manchester City is to win a maiden Champions League title, they will have to get past England’s most successful side in Europe’s top club competition, Liverpool.
The free scoring teams — runaway Premier League leader City tops the division with a staggering 85 goals followed by Liverpool’s 68 — were paired together in Friday’s draw that also saw holders Real Madrid pitted against Juventus in a repeat of last year’s final.
Kept away from Lionel Messi’s Barcelona, a Champions League El Clasico in the latter stages thus remains a possibility.
Barcelona appeared to receive a favorable matchup, landing Roma, with the remaining two-leg tie producing a clash between Bayern Munich — which has progressed to the semifinals five of the previous six seasons — and Sevilla.
Although Pep Guardiola’s City have been virtually unstoppable this season, their lone league defeat resulted at Anfield in January when the Reds won 4-3 having nearly blown a 4-1 lead.
Their first encounter in September also produced five goals. But on that occasion the home side scored all five, four coming after the dismissal of Liverpool forward Sadio Mane. Liverpool leads the Champions League too with 28 goals this term.
“We know each other very well,” Manchester City’s director of football Txiki Begiristain said. “They are a very offensive team, the truth is it is going to be a great couple of games and we are going to see good football.”
Adding spice to the affair is that City could clinch the Premier League title at city rival Manchester United on April 7, between the first leg April 4 and the second leg April 10.
Liverpool surely hopes its experience on European nights will be a factor, helping to make up for deficiencies in defense and in goal even with the signing of Dutch international Virgil van Dijk from Southampton for £75 million ($105 million) — a world record for a defender — in the January transfer window.
While City have conceded 20 times in the Premier League, Liverpool’s number rises to 34.
“We take what we’ve got,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp told the club website. “Now it’s Manchester City, let’s go.
“I don’t think they thought before the best draw they could have got is Liverpool. That’s a sign for us and how strong we can be.
“We are for sure not the favorites in this round, but in the last eight there are not a lot of favorites — maybe two of them, Bayern and Barcelona — but thank God it’s football and nothing is decided.”
Good draw for Real Madrid?
Real is bidding to become the first team to win three in a row in Europe’s elite competition since Bayern more than 40 years ago.
If the 2017 finale in Wales is any indication, Los Blancos might be pleased to get Juventus despite Italy’s “Old Lady” being wily European competitors. Thanks to a brace from the Champions League’s all-time leading scorer Cristiano Ronaldo, Real triumphed 4-1 in Cardiff.
Juve reached the quarterfinals after beating Tottenham Hotspur 4-3 on aggregate, despite the English side dominating both the first and second legs.
The Serie A team’s performance in the 2-1 second leg win at Wembley was based on a defensive masterclass and was also remarkable in the way Juve players celebrated tackles and blocks almost as much as their two goals.
Another victory for Real would be a perfect sendoff for manager Zinedine Zidane — who is expected to quit or be pushed out at the end of the season given Madrid languishes 15 points behind Barcelona in La Liga.
Messi joined Ronaldo in becoming the lone players to net 100 times in the Champions League after his brace against Chelsea on Wednesday. He also scored twice when Barcelona thumped Roma 6-1 in the group stage in 2015.
The Catalans must have fond memories of Rome, winning the final in 2009 against Manchester United 2-0.
Bayern’s pedigree suggests the German side should see off Sevilla, who stunned a cautious Manchester United in the round of 16.
The La Liga outfit have enjoyed success in Europe by winning five titles in UEFA’s second-tier cup competition — now called the Europa League — and possess the competition’s second leading scorer this season in Wissam Ben Yedder.
Even if they don’t advance, they’ll likely fare better than in their lone other quarterfinal at the elite level in 1958 when Sevilla lost 10-2 on aggregate to Real Madrid.