Pep Guardiola paced the dressing room at Goodison Park. The Spaniard was thinking, thinking about what to do, how to deal with the opposition; Anxiety was etched on his face as he chatted with his assistants, trying to formulate a game plan.
But it wasn’t Everton’s players who worried him; it was Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané from Liverpool.
“They are dangerous, they scare me,” Guardiola admitted inside Goodison. Even though City weren’t playing the red side of Merseyside, Guardiola gave the impression of a man obsessed with Liverpool, trying to find a way to stop them.
This was all captured in the Amazon Prime documentary ‘Manchester City: All or Nothing’ in 2018. City were set to face Liverpool in the Champions League quarter-finals, and the fixtures to come were clearly on his mind much more than just the game. by hand.
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His fears proved well-founded, as Liverpool beat City in the quarter-finals to advance to that season’s Champions League semi-final, and ultimately the final. It was the start of Liverpool’s true rise into one of Europe’s top teams, with the Champions League and Premier League over the next two seasons.
In the four years since the documentary, Salah and Mané have scored trucking goals, confirming what Guardiola already knew: the pair are as formidable a duo as you are likely to find in European play.
And yet, Mané and Salah have been joined by Diogo Jota and Luis Díaz, further complicating matters for Guardiola.
With the decisive game against City on April 10 just weeks away, it is likely that Guardiola is already trying to formulate a strategy to stop Liverpool’s attack. It won’t be easy as his headache has multiplied with the additions of the Portuguese and the Colombian.
Guardiola’s plan to stop Salah and Mane last October didn’t work as the pair scored in a thrilling 2-2 draw at Anfield. Both players also have strong results against City, with the pair scoring seven goals apiece.
But Liverpool’s goal threat has grown even greater now with the signings of Jota and Díaz, and Guardiola will have to adapt to not one but two plans. There’s also the late-game threat of Roberto Firmino, who is likely to come off the bench to great effect, as he has done so many times this season.
With both sides on course for the treble, Guardiola knows the game on April 10 has the potential to influence the rest of the season for both sides. Win this game, and the title is effectively won. Lose it, and it could very well threaten to derail the entire campaign.
And as the match draws near, the anxiety will return to Guardiola’s face. The rhythm will return, and worry about how to handle Liverpool’s myriad attacking options will occupy his mind, rent free.
Of course, Jürgen Klopp will pay the same respect for Guardiola’s players, but he hasn’t been caught on camera, has he?