Guardiola working on plans to halt Salah and Liverpool

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Liverpool's Mohamed Salah.
  • Post published:April 2, 2018

Liverpool’s deadly forward trio is giving Pep Guardiola plenty of food for thought before they host Manchester City in the Champions League.

Pep Guardiola concedes he is going to have to work on a special game plan to stop Mohamed Salah and Liverpool’s ‘almost unstoppable’ strike force when Manchester City travel to Merseyside for a mouth-watering Champions League quarter-final first leg on Wednesday.

Liverpool’s Egyptian winger took his goal tally across all competitions in a hugely impressive debut season to 37 in Saturday’s come-from-behind 2-1 win against Crystal Palace.

City felt the full force of Liverpool’s awesome attack during an exhilarating 4-3 defeat at Anfield in January, in which Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Salah all scored in a devastating nine-minute second-half spell.

Guardiola is keen for City not to focus solely on Salah’s threat, warning that Jurgen Klopp’s side have plenty of weapons in their arsenal, but is thinking up ways to nullify the Reds’ attack.

‘Yeah, I’ll have to do that [make special provisions for Salah], Guardiola told reporters.

‘But not just him. Mane, Firmino – all three are almost unstoppable. They are fantastic, fantastic players. The way Liverpool play is so, so complicated for us. We know that. They are so quick, they are so tough but it’s the quarter-finals of the Champions League so we cannot expect something at this level is going to be easy.

‘We play against ourselves and say that is the target we have to overcome and we will be able to do it or not able to do it. If we are able [we make the] semi-finals, if we are not able [we say] well done Liverpool and next season we come back stronger to overcome the situation we cannot this season.

Unsurprisingly, Guardiola has little intention of setting his side up to earn a draw at Anfield, insisting the focus is on the performance which he thinks should yield the right result for his side.

‘Oh, zero-six will be good a result,’ he joked.

‘I was never a manager who thought what is the best result? I focus on the performance, what you have to do. The result is, most of the time, the consequence of what you have done.’

“I don’t think about if a draw is a good result or a victory, of course scoring goals away is so important, we’re going to try score goals, [but they have] three people up front plus [Alex] Oxlade-Chamberlain in the middle, set-pieces with [Virgil] van Dijk, they are an extraordinary team.

‘But that’s what happens in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, if you play Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich … or Juventus in Turin, Roma or Sevilla – that level guys, it’s top.’

City’s 3-1 beating of Everton on Saturday means they can wrap up the Premier League title with six games to spare by beating fierce rivals Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium next weekend.

The opportunity and the longing of the fans to bring that to fruition is not lost on Guardiola, but the former Barcelona boss is refusing to be consumed by the idea.

‘I want to win the Premier League,’ he added. ‘I love Manchester City, I am a Barcelona fan, I grew up there, my heart is there, but now I am part of this club, I love to work here.’

‘Of course, I want to win against United at home, but three days before United we have Liverpool, and three days after we have the second leg.’

‘I understand completely the people are happy and the enthusiasm to win the league at home against them. I’m not going to say: ‘Don’t be happy, don’t dream to win the league. I won’t say that because our opponents would say the same if it was the opposite.’

Photo: Anthony Devlin/Backpagepix

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