After last night’s embarrassment at Anfield, Pep Guardiola and Manchester City should swiftly turn their attention to the prospect of claiming a Premier League title with a victory over Manchester United on Saturday to inspire one of the greatest Champions League comebacks.
City’s 3-0 defeat to Liverpool has given the Merseysiders an incredible chance of progressing to the semi-finals ahead of the second leg clash at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday. But before all that, City have the critical task of overcoming bitter-rivals United on Saturday – an achievement that would see the Blues claim their third Premier League title in six years.
Indeed, should Pep Guardiola’s side overcome United this weekend, the Blues could have enormous belief instilled into a team that has brimmed with confidence and swept all before them this season.
The Catalan boss told his City players he was willing to make significant changes to his starting eleven ahead of the Manchester City; however, City supporters have questioned the tactic due to the rivalry between both clubs.
Guardiola’s decision came from the importance placed on City’s Champions League hopes by the club’s hierarchy. City claiming the Premier League title this season has become a question of if, rather than when, the Blues will be victorious while the Liverpool games are considered a one-off affair.
Speaking after the victory over Everton last Saturday, Guardiola said: “Of course I want to win against United at home but we have three days before we have Liverpool after we have three days before United and after we have three days before the second leg so few recovery days.
“You have to use all the squad, but that doesn’t mean the guys who play are not going to prepare to win. If we are in the position we are now in the Premier League, it is because everyone has made his own contribution. That is going to happen. But I am sorry, as a manager, now Liverpool will occupy all my head.”
It seemed Guardiola felt the chance of resting players ahead of the second leg – regardless of the result at Anfield – was vital for City overcoming Liverpool. Now, with one foot out of the competition, City’s management should reconsider their tactic to rest key personnel in the hope of ensuring the squad is full of confidence to overturn a seemingly impossible task on Tuesday.
As before mentioned, supporters are not willing to allow the opportunity to win the title against United pass over lightly. City have spent years in the shadow of their Greater-Manchester rivals, and fans believe this once in a lifetime opportunity may never come around again.
In 2012, City won the title in a way that may never be eclipsed by overcoming United with the last kick of the ball, in the final game of the Premier League season, but this could be the closest opportunity to that feeling of euphoria.
With the game coming just three days after City’s possible title victory, Guardiola doesn’t doubt City can beat Liverpool despite the challenge ahead.
“I believe a lot in my team. They’ve shown me so many good things over the season,” said Pep.
“The result is so tough. We cannot deny it.
“But we have 90 minutes more, and we’re going to try it. Of course, it’s so complicated because we’re going to play a top top team, but we’re going to try it.”
Everyone saw how Liverpool dismantled City last night with confidence and belief in their system a key component to their success in the opening thirty minutes. The chance to now secure title success in Guardiola’s second season could spring an un-measurable level of confidence to City.
In-front of a capacity crowd at the Etihad Stadium, you never know what could occur. But laying down and playing a weakened side with another defeat more than possible, could end City’s slight chances of beating Liverpool by more than three goals.