“Manchester City and Liverpool, two of the strongest teams in England in recent years, meet four days after the end of the tournament in Qatar in the 1/8 finals of the English League Cup.
Both clubs, who regularly reach the late stages of numerous competitions, have suffered for years because of their crazy schedule. What to say about this season, in which the World Cup has been squeezed into the very middle of the national championships. Guardiola has been calling for one of the English tournaments (there are even two cups) to be abandoned since 2020: “In that case there would be fewer games. And that means less quantity and more quality. People can live for a while without soccer. Otherwise, it’s too much. Soccer authorities should think about this. The coaches complain, but the management doesn’t care. We take the field a couple of days apart over and over again. Teams suffer from this schedule.”
Naturally, the World Cup has left a serious imprint on both opponents, packed with players from all over the world. “City delegated 16 men to Doha and the surrounding area, while Liverpool had seven. That had an impact on the squad: the Citizens could not rely on Ederson, Alvarez and Diaz, with Canselo, Silva, Stones, Walker and Foden – the starting players – sitting on the bench. The Reds also had a tough time – Alisson, van Dijk, Conatae and Trent were absent. Plus Diaz, Arthur and Jota are recovering from injuries. Roberto Firmino was also injured a few hours before the starting whistle.
If even Guardiola complains, for whom the sheikhs do not spare money to constantly strengthen the squad, what about Jurgen Klopp, who is used to working with a much more limited resource? Before the start of the World Cup, the German once again voiced a long-standing problem: “I hate this subject. The problem of players getting injured during the season and not being able to play in the World Cup is not new. After a long season, it happens everywhere. No one cares about us or how to deal with it. We are all to blame for letting it happen, and now we have to accept the situation.”
Klopp is right – all he and Guardiola have to do is accept the rules of the game and show wonders of adaptability. And in the first minutes it seemed that Pep did a much better job – City just pushed Liverpool into the penalty area, and on 7 minutes young Cole Palmer missed the ball from a clearance in front of an empty net. But very soon, the Citizens opened the scoring. It was Erling Holan, of course, who did it through de Bruyne. Hosting the opponents at home, “MC” expectedly had the advantage – 12:4 in shots and a percentage of possession of 60:40 in the first half. But, as Morocco taught us in the match with Spain, the initiative does not equal the result. Moreover, Liverpool, even in its current form is not the best, remain one of the most dangerous teams in the vertical attacks. So there were chances at Stefan Ortega’s goal and Fabio Carvalho, who replaced Firmino in the starting line-up, equalized in the 20th minute.
But the most interesting part began in the second half. In the 47th minute, Riyad Marez gave the hosts the lead with his magic left-footed shot into the bottom corner. Less than a minute later, Liverpool responded with another counterattack culminating in Mohamed Salah’s goal.
Despite another bite, City continued to build their lead, and eventually took the lead again. This time it was helped by a corner and another outstanding pass by de Bruyne, who on the whole played an excellent match and showed what level he can demonstrate in a well-oiled club system. With the scoreline at 3-2 the pattern of the game did not change – the Citizens continued to possess the ball and the initiative, and Liverpool tried to catch the high line of the opponent’s defense with passes to Darwin Nunez. But the Uruguayan was frankly adrift and failed to capitalize on three clear-cut chances. So far, this is the main thing that distinguishes him from Holann, who squeezed the maximum out of any pass in his direction.
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However, the most interesting thing happened in the second half. On 47 minutes, Riyad Marez gave the hosts the lead with a brilliant handling of the ball and his magical left-back shot into the bottom corner. Less than a minute later, Liverpool responded with another counterattack culminating in Mohamed Salah’s goal.
Despite another bite, City continued to build their lead, and eventually took the lead again. This time it was helped by a corner and another outstanding pass by de Bruyne, who on the whole played an excellent match and showed what level he can demonstrate in a well-oiled club system. With the score at 3-2 the pattern of the game did not change – the Citizens continued to possess the ball and the initiative, while Liverpool tried to catch the high line of the opponent’s defense with passes to Darwin Nunez.
“Liverpool were unable to get back into the game and were knocked out of the tournament, but it is unlikely to be a great tragedy for the Reds. The English League Cup, to put it mildly, is not the most prestigious tournament, and the opportunity to play a few fewer games is not a bad help in other tournaments. Well, this evening some of the best teams in Europe celebrated the return of club soccer beautifully. The World Cup is over, but the show goes on!