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Champions League priorities hand Man City a selection dilemma between Liverpool FC tests



Sunday’s 2-2 thriller between Manchester City and Liverpool more than lived up to the billing. Supporters and neutrals alike were treated to the grand spectacle of two greats – and two different philosophies – locking horns with thrilling results.

Twice City edged ahead, and twice they were pegged back by the defiant Merseysiders. A draw appeared the fair result on balance, and in just six days they get to do it all over again. But before the FA Cup semi-final on Saturday, both sides have Champions League ties to contend with.

For City, an away trip to Spanish champions Atletico Madrid, as Pep Guardiola’s side look to extend their 1-0 lead from the first leg of the quarter-final. It will arguably be a less taxing evening for Liverpool, who host Benfica at Anfield having already chalked up an impressive 3-1 lead in Lisbon last week.

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With City targeting a treble and Liverpool a quadruple, this week will see at least one of the sides’ hopes dashed, as only one can progress in the FA Cup and set up a final against either Crystal Palace or Chelsea. So, will Guardiola and Klopp be tempted to rotate in the Champions League?

City are less likely to make wholesale changes for the trip to Madrid, given their slender lead and the danger of the opposition. Atletico eliminated Manchester United in the previous round and made life difficult for Guardiola’s side in the first leg.

However, it could be argued that City have more strength in depth than their Merseyside counterparts. Guardiola has a plethora of attacking talent at his disposal and could select any number of combinations between Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus, Riyad Mahrez, Jack Grealish and Phil Foden – that’s before you consider that Bernardo Silva and Kevin De Bruyne can also play in advanced roles.

City’s midfield and defence can also be altered without a detrimental impact on performance, with Nathan Ake, Ilkay Gundogan and Fernandinho all stepping up across the season, to name a few.

Jurgen Klopp doesn’t have quite the same luxury as Guardiola with regards to squad numbers, but there is certainly still room for effective rotation if the German should decide to switch things up. Like City, Liverpool have an eye-watering array of attacking players, and the January addition of Luiz Diaz only enhanced the Reds’ threat going forward.

While not blessed with the same number of midfield and defensive options as Guardiola, Klopp still has room to make effective alterations in those areas against Benfica. Kostas Tsimikas, Joe Gomez, Ibrahima Konate and Naby Keita are among those at the German’s disposal, and given the significance of Saturday’s Wembley fixture, Klopp could decide to make many changes against Benfica.

This week is massive for Manchester City and Liverpool, who are both targeting historic trophy tallies this term. While personnel changes could play a factor, Guardiola and Klopp’s belief in their philosophies is unwavering, so we could be in for yet another spectacle on Saturday.

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