LONDON – Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan believes they are better prepared to cope with Liverpool’s attacking trio in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-finals at Anfield tonight.
City’s 4-3 defeat at Liverpool in January was their only loss against a Premier League side this season.
It came courtesy of three goals in nine second-half minutes from Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, who have combined to score 75 goals in all competitions for Liverpool this season.
“There’s a lot of respect because all three have scored plenty of goals and they’ve also set up many more,” Gundogan told British media.
“Liverpool are still the only team that’s been capable of beating us in the Premier League, but we’re aware why this happened, although we performed pretty well that day.
“Going back to Anfield for the first leg is a great motivation for us. We’d like to get a great result in the first leg and then dominate the game in the second in front of our fans.”
Gundogan spent four years under Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp, who managed Borussia Dortmund before moving to England. It was a period with the German club winning the Bundesliga, the German Cup, and reaching the 2013 Champions League final.
“Juergen is a terrific coach and he’s capable of motivating his team ahead of every game,” Gundogan added. “And he’s proving all that again with Liverpool; their attack is incredibly strong so they aren’t an easy team to beat, but we need to do so.”
City could wrap up the Premier League title with a win over local rivals Manchester United on Saturday before facing Liverpool in the second leg at the Etihad Stadium three days later.
Meanwhile, Barcelona have sent a stern warning to AS Roma in a preview video ahead of their clash tonight: “Welcome Romans, 100,000 gladiators await you!”
One warrior stands head and shoulders above the rest.
Lionel Messi is fit again and expected to start against the Italian side after rising from the bench to rescue Barcelona a point in a 2-2 draw with Sevilla on Saturday.
Messi missed Argentina’s friendlies during the international break with muscular problems, a 2-0 win over Italy and a humiliating 6-1 thrashing by Spain in Madrid.
Thrown on by Ernesto Valverde just before the hour mark as Barcelona trailed Sevilla 2-0, Messi turned the tide in his team’s favour and drove home an 89th-minute equaliser from outside the area.
“He didn’t start the game as a precaution,” Valverde said. “We think he will be fine for Wednesday but we will see how he feels after tonight’s effort.
“Of course, he’s an important player; he makes a difference every time he touches the ball.”
The last time Roma faced Barcelona was in the Champions League group stage in November 2015, the Catalans registering a thumping 6-1 home win over the Italians.
Messi made his return from a two-month injury lay-off in that game, running the show and scoring twice, as well as setting up Gerard Pique.
“Andres Iniesta, our Michelangelo, Leo Messi, our emperor,” Barcelona said in the video.