Does Liverpool’s flawless group-stage campaign make them the team to beat in the Champions League; Plus: Could porous Manchester City defence cost Pep Guardiola’s side dear in Europe?\If you offered Jurgen Klopp a guaranteed clean bill of health, together with another encouraging night of education for some of Liverpool’s academy prospects in their final Champions League group-stage match at AC Milan, he would probably have taken it.
But when your team is performing as well as Klopp’s is at this moment in time, why on earth would he need to negotiate?
Liverpool had already secured passage to the Champions League knockout phase by virtue of winning their opening five group-stage matches. A sixth would have been a welcome bonus, of course, but no sleep would have been lost had Milan brought that run to an end.
For Milan, their very existence in Europe this season hinged on events at the San Siro but not even that tangible target was enough to halt this insatiable Liverpool team who, despite making eight changes, wrote their name into the European history books – again.
In a perfect piece of symmetry, Mohamed Salah and Divock Origi, whose goals overcame Tottenham to secure a sixth European crown in 2019, found the net at the San Siro as Liverpool became the first English side to win all six of their group-stage matches.
It will, of course, all count for nothing if Liverpool don’t get their hands on a seventh European title in May. But their sensational start to this season’s campaign begs a pertinent question: if not Liverpool, then who?
It was not a happy trip to Germany for Manchester City. To start with, they were beaten 2-1 by RB Leipzig, who are without a manager since Jesse Marsch’s departure at the weekend.
But they also picked up an unwanted record – not keeping a clean sheet in any of their group games this season. Overall, they have failed to keep a clean sheet in ten of their last 11 Champions League outings.
On Tuesday, Pep Guardiola changed three of his back four. John Stones and Nathan Ake were in the centre of defence, with Oleksandr Zinchenko also coming in and Kyle Walker keeping his place. The Ukrainian was the only one to escape unscathed – Stones was at fault for the second goal, Walker was sent off and Ake looks to have picked up a back injury.
Zack Steffan also replaced Ederson in goal and City actually had him to thank for keeping RB Leipzig from running away with the game in the first half. He made a string of superb saves, including a stunning stop from close range to deny Silva.