Manchester City vs Liverpool | Saturday 16th April 2022, 15:30 | BBC
Just six days have passed since Man City and Liverpool played out a compelling 2-2 draw that kept the Citizens top of the Premier League table.
Both sides reached the Champions League semi-finals on Wednesday. Jurgen Klopp had the luxury of resting players in their home draw with Benfica. But Pep Guardiola was unable to do that, as City’s goalless draw with Atletico Madrid turned into ‘The War at the Wanda’.
It was a bruising encounter in the Spanish capital, which has left Kevin de Bruyne and Kyle Walker as major doubts for this FA Cup semi-final. On top of the physicality, it was a night of high emotions. That’ll have taken something out of them mentally, and not to forget the travelling.
One-off cup ties can often through up a few dilemmas trying to work out how teams might line up. When you think Liverpool are hunting a historic quadruple, while City are chasing a treble, the stakes are high.
Just one point separates the two sides in the Premier League. And both of their league clashes have seen the points shared in highly-entertaining 2-2 draws, so it’s understandable to see why the bookies can’t split them.
Given what happened in midweek, I’m more than happy to take the odds-against price on Liverpool 0 in the Asian Handicap market – it’s priced just above even-money.
This bet is a winner if the Reds win in 90 minutes, while we’ll get our stake refunded if the sides play out their third draw of the season. If City win, we lose.
After Klopp was able to rest and rotate against Benfica, as well as not having to travel, it gives them a slight edge. And that’s boosted by the fitness doubts in the Man City ranks, especially the one of De Bruyne, who has found the net twice against the Reds.
Liverpool’s league record in 2022 reads P12, W10, D2 and L0, scoring 29 and conceding just six. The two draws were against Chelsea and Man City, so that’s the reason for having the cover with the Asian Handicap bet, considering it’s a bigger price than Liverpool draw no bet.
Both sides have plenty of depth, but you have to feel Klopp’s is slightly stronger in those forward areas. Whether he goes Roberto Firmino or Diogo Jota through the middle to start with, then he’s got Luis Diaz as back-up as well – players who can impact the outcome of this semi-final.
So, for me, with Liverpool’s players slightly fresher after their European nights on Wednesday, as well as the Reds' depth in attacking options, then an odds-against price in the Asian Handicap looks the way to go.
There’s a player bet I’m taking for the second angle. Initially, I was looking towards Diogo Jota 2+ shots at 5/6 (Bet365), but when I dug deeper into his stats they weren’t as good as expected. And then there are a few places hinting Firmino might get the nod to start.
So, I’ll instead plump for Joao Cancelo to make 3+ tackles and have 1+ shots with Ladbrokes at 15/8. The marauding full-back ranks 10th for tackles in the Premier League this season (66) and he’s hit the three-plus mark in seven of his last eight league games.
Plus, the Portuguese international has registered three in both games against Liverpool this term. He’s even likely to be back in his preferred right-back slot with Walker being a doubt, meaning he’ll be up against Sadio Mane, who we all know likes to have a dribble.
Overall, he’s hit 3+ tackles in 15 top-flight games, including in both Manchester derbies and against top-four challengers Spurs. The tackles part as a single is 10/11 with Sky Bet.
I’ve added a shot to boost the price to 15/8. Here’s why. Cancelo has had more shots than any other City player in the Premier League (62). He’s had at least one shot in 27 of his 29 apps in the top-flight (93%), which sums up his mentality to drive into those forward areas.
From those 62 shots, 43 have been from outside the box, so he’s not afraid to have a pop. That’s always handy with how well Liverpool can defend with their CMs protecting the two CBs. But there’s also a chance Cancelo can exploit some space when Andy Robertson gets forward.
He’s yet to feature in this season’s FA Cup, but now we’re at the business end of the competition, Guardiola will have to start his big guns. With the above numbers, I’m more than happy to say that Cancelo will be heavily involved.
It’s the best two sides in the country right now going toe-to-toe to try and reach a final. We should be for yet another cracker, but I’m leaning towards Liverpool for progression.