Thursday 14 November 2019

Manchester City demand guarantees of safety ahead of Liverpool trip as fears of hostile reception grow


Liverpool fans set off flares and throw missiles at the Manchester City team bus before their Champions League clash at Anfield last year. Photo: Action Images via Reuters
Liverpool fans set off flares and throw missiles at the Manchester City team bus before their Champions League clash at Anfield last year. Photo: Action Images via Reuters

James Ducker

Manchester City have sought assurances from Liverpool about security arrangements for Sunday's top-of-the-table clash at Anfield after raising concerns about posters promising another hostile "coach greeting" for Pep Guardiola and his players.

City's team bus came under attack on its way into Anfield for the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final against Liverpool last year.

Bottles and flares were hurled at the coach, which caused thousands of pounds of damage and forced City to find a replacement to take them home. Guardiola complained about the lack of protection and City were bemused that no arrests followed.

Although last season's Premier League meeting at Anfield passed without incident, and similar posters did the rounds before that 0-0 draw, City are leaving nothing to chance and are understood to have been in contact with Liverpool about the posters as part of the liaising process.

Posters have been circulating on social media urging fans to line the streets around Anfield and bring "pyro, pints, flags and banners" to make the atmosphere "like a European night". Like last season, City are expected to keep their route to Anfield a secret in an attempt to ensure they arrive unscathed for a game they feel they must win as they attempt to reduce Liverpool's six-point lead at the top.

Merseyside Police's decision to publicise City's bus route compounded problems before that infamous Champions League greeting.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola. Photo: MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP via Getty Images
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola. Photo: MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP via Getty Images

Officers are understood to be aware of the posters and have no plans to publicise any bus route.

They work closely with Liverpool around match-day security and are not anticipating problems. In the poster, Liverpool fans have been asked to line the streets from the King Harry Pub all the way up Anfield Road to the stadium.

Challenge

City have not won at Anfield since 2003 and the challenge could be made increasingly difficult if Ederson is not passed fit.

The champions' first-choice goalkeeper was undergoing tests yesterday on a thigh problem that forced his substitution at half-time of the 1-1 draw with Atalanta on Wednesday.

Guardiola is already without his best defender, Aymeric Laporte, winger Leroy Sane and left-back Oleksandr Zinchenko and has doubts over midfielders David Silva and Rodri, while Ederson's potential absence would force him to start Claudio Bravo between the posts.

Bravo was sent off just 36 minutes after replacing Ederson against Atalanta when he careered out of the penalty area and flung himself at Josip Ilicic.

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Although there has been talk about an extension to Bravo's contract, which expires next summer, the 36-year-old Chilean has started just two league matches since April 2017.

Bravo has talked about "nearly killing himself to turn the situation around" after being dropped in his debut season for Willy Caballero before Ederson's arrival in 2017.

However, despite since steadying himself, he has played precious little first-team football and ruptured his Achilles last term.

There will certainly be no hiding place on Sunday, but Kevin De Bruyne has insisted these are the occasions for which big players live and that a white-hot atmosphere should be embraced.

"I prefer to play in that than when there is nobody," the City midfielder said. "Professionals want to play in front of 50, 60, 70, 80,000 people.

"You train all your life to get to the big stages. I want to compete for titles and to be the best, and to do that you have to win against the best."

Guardiola - heavily linked with the Juventus job over the past year - has admitted he would be interested in managing in Italy in the future.

"Why not, it was a pleasure as a player, with Capello and the great Mazzone," said the Manchester City head coach, who played for Brescia and Roma. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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