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Champions League - Football: Prem pair primed to progress

12 April 2022 11:35:05 EST
Man City face a tricky test on Wednesday evening at Atletico Madrid's Metropolitano

Manchester City and Liverpool shared the points in a pulsating Premier League clash on Sunday, but now the focus for both sides switches back to the Champions League as they hope to make sure of their places in the last four.

A 2-2 draw at the Etihad leaves the domestic title race finely poised and the two rivals meet again in the FA Cup semi-finals on Saturday.

They could yet square off in the Champions League final too, but there are significant hurdles to negotiate before that becomes a reality - with City 2.20 to be crowned champions of Europe and Liverpool available at 1.53.

Not least, knocking out Atletico Madrid and Benfica in the last eight in midweek, with City holding a slender 1-0 lead ahead of their trip to the Spanish capital and Liverpool in a better position as they have a 3-1 advantage going into their second leg at Anfield against the Portuguese outfit.

Missed chances could hurt Citizens

Neither tie has been settled yet, but it would be a surprise if the two Premier League heavyweights do not make it through to the semi-final stage.

City's clash with Atleti at the Wanda Metropolitano certainly holds more jeopardy as Pep Guardiola's side could only manage the one goal at home last week despite largely dominating.

Kevin De Bruyne's second-half effort is all that separates the two sides as the Citizens were guilty of missing chances in the first leg to put the tie beyond the Colchoneros' grasp.

As it is, Diego Simeone's men remain very much alive, although they will have to show more attacking intent at home if they are to overturn the deficit.

Atleti failed to muster a single attempt on goal at the Etihad as they instead relied on their frequently-used and well-drilled defensive gameplan in order to stifle the hosts.

It worked well for much of the game, but the size of their task now is underlined by the fact City are 1.11 to qualify, with Simeone's men 6.50 to progress from here.

Atleti have enjoyed English success

It's worth remembering that Atletico knocked then holders Liverpool out in 2020, when the Reds lost both legs at the last-16 stage, while Manchester United were also sent packing by the La Liga champions in the previous round this season.

Simeone will hope a hostile home crowd can unsettle the Premier League leaders and they do possess plenty of attacking threat if they adopt a more positive approach.

Joao Felix and Antoine Griezmann were starved of service in the first leg, while Luis Suarez was left on the bench.

Unleashing the former Liverpool and Barcelona forward is an option for Simeone who knows he needs to score to have a chance of going through.

City should have too much firepower

However, keeping Guardiola's men out at the other end will be extremely difficult. City have only failed to score in two of their last 31 matches in all competitions and scored five on the road against both Club Brugge and Sporting Lisbon earlier in the competition.

Their attacking riches include De Bruyne - who has six goals in his last seven games - Phil Foden, whose introduction off the bench last week turned the game in City's favour and Riyad Mahrez, who has scored 22 goals so far this term.

Expect Atleti to open up as the second leg progresses as they go in search of the goals they need which will play nicely into the visitors' hands. Therefore, backing both teams to score on the night looks wise at odds of 2.00.

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Reds in commanding position

Liverpool will think they have done the hard work in their last-eight tie when Benfica travel to Anfield looking to overturn a 3-1 deficit - the Reds are 1.012 to make it through, while the Lisbon Eagles are huge outsiders at 23.00 to prevail.

Goals from Ibrahima Konate, Sadio Mane and Luis Diaz sealed an ultimately comfortable victory in Lisbon for Jurgen Klopp's side, but there were spells in the first leg when the Eagles were on top and Diaz's goal to secure the two-goal cushion only came three minutes from the end.

Nunez a major threat

The Reds were poor defensively in the first half on Sunday before recovering well, but they cannot afford to make the same sloppy mistakes and let Benfica back into the tie, especially as Uruguayan forward Darwin Nunez - reportedly a top target for several Premier League sides - lines up in opposition again.

Nunez scored in the first leg to give Nelson Verissimo's men a glimmer of hope for their Anfield trip and he followed that up with a hat-trick in a 3-1 league win over Belenenses at the weekend, taking his goal tally for the season to 31 in all competitions.

He can be backed at 3.25 to score at any time at Anfield on Wednesday evening.

Anfield remains a Reds fortress

Liverpool have lost just once at home all season and that was when they hosted Inter Milan in the previous round in the Champions League after being 2-0 up from the first leg.

Another defeat in similar circumstances would be a shock, though, considering a place in the semi-finals is up for grabs.

The Reds have kept a clean sheet in five of their last eight games in all, but have not been at their free-flowing best with matches coming thick and fast as they continue to battle on three fronts.

Mo Salah has looked out of sorts over the past month with his only goal in his last eight games coming from the penalty spot against Brighton, but Sadio Mane has scored in each of the last two and Diogo Jota has four in his last five.

Liverpool should get the job done on the night, but it could be a grind. A narrow one-goal victory - available at 3.75 - appeals for those looking for value.

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