- Adwitya Jha
Everything you need to know, Predicted XI – Manchester City vs Liverpool FA Cup Semi-Final Preview
On Saturday the two heavyweights of the English game lock horns for the 3rd time this season. Manchester City face Liverpool at Wembley for the semi-finals of the FA Cup. The 2-2 draw played out by the two last Sunday is still fresh in the memory, a game which saw City dominate for most parts but ultimately paying for their wastefulness in front of goal.
This game spells the end of a torrid run of fixtures where they had alternately faced both Liverpool and Atletico Madrid twice in succession. The match is scheduled to kick off at 15:30 (BST) on the 16th of April, broadcast live on BBC One.
Kyle Walker and De Bruyne have not trained today and are a doubt for the crucial game tomorrow. Pep in his press conference did comment that they will be assessed again before the game tomorrow, but both seemingly remain unlikely to feature. Pep commented that De Bruyne has stitches on his calf and not a muscle injury, as previously feared, which is a good sign. Walker's injury also doesn't seem as bad as first thought, with Pep confirming that he had twisted his ankle in the previous game but is getting better quickly. Ruben Dias has trained today and is available for the game.
Steffen, Cancelo, Dias, Stones, Ake, Gundogan, Fernandinho, Bernardo, Sterling, Jesus, Grealish
League position: 1st
Top scorer: Mahrez (22)
Previous result: D 0-0 Atletico Madrid (A)
Wednesday night was a gruelling experience for City against Atletico away at the Wanda Metropolitano. City had to tap into their dark side on the night against a hostile opponent. Atletico were given a taste of their own medicine in their backyard, and judging by the conduct of the Atleti players at the end, and the comments made by their president subsequently, it appears to have been a successful day both on and off the pitch for Pep and his boys. But qualification into the next round of the Champions League came at a cost for City, with both Walker and De Bruyne coming out with injuries.
Losing two of his stalwarts in the starting XI is a huge loss for Pep, but the Catalan has adjusted his team in the past to limit the effect of losing De Bruyne with Bernardo Silva thriving on several occasions. Silva holds the key for City at the weekend; he has been a constant threat against Liverpool, with his mesmeric performance against them away in the league earlier in the season springing to mind. Walker's loss seems to be a bigger blow, with City a bit short-staffed in the full-back region. But Ake's recent performances at left-back have been a revelation, with the Dutchman proving he is a capable option at left fullback. Cancelo is expected to shift to the right, which is his natural side, with Ake taking up the other flank.
City are well-positioned to win three competitions, but face the prospect of facing off directly against Liverpool in all three if they are to win them. The Premier League fight is a straight contest between the two with only one point separating both sides. Last week's draw at home against the same opposition has put City in the driving seat for the league, but they cannot afford to slip up even once in their remaining 7 games. The Champions League sees City face off against the 13-time champions Real Madrid in the semi-finals. If City do manage to get through, there is a high chance they will have to face Liverpool in the finals, with Jurgen Klopp's side expected to get past the challenge of Villarreal.
City will go into the semi-final on Saturday bruised but with confidence from their impressive showing in their last meeting fresh in mind. Against Atletico, City had to defend doggedly and withstand attacks both on and off the field, plus deal with the hostile Atleti crowd. City will have to take some parts from the previous game into this next game and defend better than they did at the Etihad. City restricted the chances created by Liverpool but were undone by the only two clear-cut chances they could carve out. City will hope that the return of Ruben Dias after an injury lay-off will help shore things at the back.
League position: 2nd
Top scorer: Salah (28)
Previous result: D 3-3 Benfica (H)
Liverpool had a much more straightforward game mid-week. They carried a 3-1 aggregate lead from the first leg and could thus afford to rest all of their key players for the all-important game at the weekend. And although Benfica scored 3, they never seemed to trouble Liverpool.
Liverpool come into the Cup semi-final well-rested, with the Carabao Cup already won. While City are gunning for the treble, Liverpool are aiming for the quadruple. Liverpool are playing second fiddle to City in the league and have a seemingly tougher run-in between the two teams – so they will have added motivation to knock the Blues out. Liverpool rested 7 of their players that started at the Etihad and therefore will carry a slight advantage. City on the other hand will hope the confidence and adrenaline they carry from Madrid will help them across the line.
Referee: Michael Oliver
Assistants: Stuart Burt & Simon Bennett
Fourth Official: Kevin Friend
VAR: Darren England
Assistant VAR: Lee Betts
Written by: @adwitya16
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