Six minutes of football madness!
The spirit of Istanbul!
These are two phrases synonymous with the UEFA Champions League final held at the Atatürk Stadium on the 25th of May, 2005 in the Turkish capital featured English giants Liverpool against Italian football heavyweights AC Milan. Arguably one of the best club teams ever assembled, the Italians had romped to a seemingly unassailable three goal lead by half time but their worthy opponents mounted a spirited fight inspired by a young Steven Gerrard (Captain) to score three quick second half goals in six minutes. Liverpool went ahead to win the game on penalties, completing the greatest comeback in a European Final.
This week, Liverpool will be looking to reclaim their lost glory and their claim as an English football powerhouse when they face Premier League runaway leaders Manchester City in the first leg of the Champions League quarter finals at the Anfield. This fixture has drawn the only two remaining English sides in the competition meaning the overall winner of the tie will be representing the country in the semifinals of the Continent’s Premier club competition, and therefore pride will be at stake as each side look for a chance to rub shoulders with Europe’s elite in the last four.
The two teams are playing beautiful football with the two synonymous with attacking styles. They are scoring goals for fun, and we have witnessed a dozen of goals in their two league meetings so far; Liverpool can boast to be the only side to have beaten the citizens so far this season in a thrilling 4-3 win at Anfield. Earlier in the season, the Champions designate had easily dispatched their opponents in a 5-0 Premier League classic at the City of Manchester stadium. At the heart of City’s style of play is fluid passing and movement. The midfield partnership of Belgian play maker Kevin De Bruyne and Spanish David Silva has proved to be a cutting edge one. They have out maneuvered every opponent they have faced so far by executing slick passes and initiating devastating attacks. Liverpool on the other hand have the attacking trio of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah to boast about. These three have gained a reputation of executing deadly counter attacks, and rightfully so. The three have scored tones of goals led by their quick and clever Egyptian winger Mohamed Salah who has shaken the net at least 35 times this season in all competition.
While the reds of Anfield have won the Europe’s top tier club competition an English record five times, City will be hoping to book a place in the last four for only the second time ever. Their Spanish manager Pep Guardiola has tasted success in the competition before when his near perfect Barcelona side almost swept away all and sundry earlier in his management career. As a matter of fact, last season’s quarter final elimination marked the only time his side had failed to reach the semifinals of the Champions League. Despite being described as the perfect manager for a club that craves success by playing fluid offensive football, Guardiola must triumph over Liverpool and its intimidating Anfield atmosphere to cement his personal status in European football, and introduce Manchester City to glory. Having engineered arguably one of the best oiled ever teams in England, his free scoring side will be hoping to make a maiden appearance in the final to be played at the NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Kiev, Ukraine on the 26th of May and probably win the title to impose himself as one of all-time great managers. Jurgen Klopp led Liverpool will also want to make an appearance in the final for the first time in more than a decade and restore England’s glory in the competition. Only one side can reach the semifinals. Will the intimidating atmosphere at Anfield play a part in the overall outcome of this tie? Will we see another mighty comeback? Will Liverpool’s attacking trio out shadow City’s brilliance?