Thursday 23 May 2019

John Aldridge: 'The two teams battling it out for the English title may just be the best sides in Europe'

Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola (Martin Rickett/PA)
Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola (Martin Rickett/PA)

John Aldridge

Amid the excitement of the Premier League title race, it is easy to forget that Liverpool and Manchester City are possibly on course to meet in this season’s Champions League final.

The two teams battling it out for the English title may just be the best sides in European football this season.

We will discover if that is the case as they aim to plot a route to the semi-finals of the competition tonight.

I’m pretty confident Liverpool will score an away goal at Porto and that will mean the home side need to score at least four to go through, which is highly unlikely to happen.

City face a very different task as they try to come from 1-0 down to beat Tottenham, but the absence of Harry Kane from the Spurs side is a hammer blow that will affect their hopes of defending their 1-0 lead from the first leg.

Liverpool ended up beating City 5-1 on aggregate at this stage of the Champions League last season, but there was a period in the opening half an hour in the second leg at the Etihad Stadium that the home side were pushing to get back into the game.

Liverpool had a 3-0 first-leg advantage on that occasion, but City can blow teams away when they get some momentum behind them and Tottenham will be vulnerable if they concede first tonight.

I would fancy City to find a way to get through to the semi-finals because their desperation to win this tie should ensure they are at their very best and when that is the case, very few teams can live with them.

However, we have seen some cracks in City’s make-up over the last few weeks. The concern for Liverpool may be that they rattle through the final few games of the Premier League season with wins and their only slip-up in their hunt for a quadruple of trophies comes in the Champions League.

However, a Tottenham win tonight could be crucial to the whole season for Mauricio Pochettino’s side, City and Liverpool for a number of reasons.

Momentum is massive in any sport and if City are sent tumbling out of the one competition they are desperate to win tonight, that will be a major blow to their confidence and morale.

Tottenham played a clever tactical game to nullify them in the first leg and they have players that can hurt City on the break. I’d love to see what happens to City if their European dream ends this evening.

For the club to become a serious force in European football, they need to be winning the Champions League year after year, but instead they come up short in pretty emphatic fashion year after year.

That script needs to change tonight, and with games against Tottenham and Manchester United coming up for them in the Premier League, they need to avoid what would be a disaster for them tonight.

The closer we get to the end of this season, it seems likely that the team finishing second in the Premier League will end up with a points total of around 93.

If Liverpool or City fail to win the title after putting together an incredibly consistent season of brilliant results and getting over 90 points, it will be very hard to take for the team licking their wounds and reflecting on a near miss.

You might argue that Liverpool and City can forget about the Premier League title and focus only on European ambitions tonight, but the reality is they are both strongly linked.

Herald Sport

The Left Wing: Leinster's succession plan, Munster's missing piece and the art of contract negotiations

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport