Hard to tell just who Cesc Fabregas had most in his crosshairs – fans, media, future opposition? All of the above? – as he more or less told the world that suggestions of Barcelona demise were certainly premature.
It has been an odd turn, hasn’t it, this flawed bit of chattering class echo that has spun through the media cycle, one suggesting that the current Barcelona bunch had seen its better days?
Tuesday’s 2-0 win at the Etihad will go a long way to chopping that weed at the root. Well, maybe near the bottom of the stem, at least.
City could still rally in this one; Manuel Pellegrini’s men had the tactics right for 50 minutes Tuesday, and remain blessed with a fabulous array of talent. But it’s a long shot – and that’s what Fabregas (pictured, on the left) was reminding everyone as he took a verbal sledgehammer to smash up the burgeoning notion of Barcelona as a mighty club on the wobble:
We are top of the league, we had a great result tonight, we are in the final of the (domestic Kings) cup. There’s nothing else you can ask for. The fans in Spain put so much pressure on you and the team, and that’s what makes everyone feel so special to be playing for this team. Maybe we had to prove a point in a way, and we did it and did it well. People have been talking too much, saying that Barcelona are not the same Barcelona. Now people will have to shut up for a couple of days.”
How to watch Arsenal vs Leeds live, stream link and start time
Kick off: 10am ET, Saturday TV Channel: USA Network Online:Stream via NBCSports.com
Key storylines & star players
For Arsenal, it’s going to continue to be a feast of talent in attacking positions as Bukayo Saka and Martin Odegaard are in the Premier League Player of the Year conversation and Gabriel Martinelli isn’t too far off. Perhaps Gabriel Jesus would be there, too, if he didn’t miss such a long stretch of time with injury but he’s fit and firing and Leeds has reason to worry about its back line. Leeds would love to see Maximillian Wober and Tyler Adams available but they are not and it will be incumbent about the attackers to make up for their absences. Weston McKennie and Marc Roca will be under the microscope today.
Arsenal team news, injuries, lineup options
OUT: William Saliba (lower back), Mohamed Elneny (knee), Eddie Nketiah (ankle), Takehiro Tomiyasu (knee)
🔴 𝗧𝗘𝗔𝗠𝙉𝙀𝙒𝙎 ⚪️
🧱 Holding at the back 🤩 Trossard on the wing ⚡ Gabby leads the line
Quick-fire second half goals from Kevin de Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan did the damage and Jack Grealish scored a fourth to send the home fans (who did the Poznan) wild as Pep Guardiola was delighted with the way his team surged away from Jurgen Klopp’s dejected Liverpool.
In the end this was a routine win for City as they’re now on 64 points, five points behind Arsenal who play later on Saturday against Leeds. Liverpool remain on 42 points and have lost ground in the top four race after back-to-back away defeats in the Premier League.
With their star striker out with a groin injury, City turned to Alvarez to fill the significant void. Turns out having a World Cup winning striker as a back-up option is pretty decent. La Arana scored the first, consistently made good runs and Liverpool just couldn’t cope with the movement of Alvarez, Mahrez, Grealish, Gundogan and De Bruyne (all of whom had at least a goal or an assist) in attack. It was a different feel to City’s attack and reminded you that even if goal-machine Haaland is out, they have a Plan B and it works pretty well. That plan won them the title last season and this display gives ammunition to those who say Haaland makes City a little too predictable to play against. They were anything but that against Liverpool as Guardiola was delighted with the movement, pressure and intensity of his forward quartet. Haaland was seen celebrating Alvarez’s goal jubilantly in the stands alongside his father, former City midfielder Alf-Inge, and this display showed there’s no need to rush Erling back and they can get him fully-fit for the Champions League quarterfinal showdown against Bayern Munich on April 11.
Stars of the show; Manchester City vs Liverpool player ratings
Mohamed Salah: Took his goal superbly and was always a threat. Had very little help around him.
Riyad Mahrez: Didn’t score but was superb in setting the tone. Almost unstoppable when he’s in this form.
Kevin de Bruyne: Got a goal and yet another assist as he drove City on.
Jack Grealish: Probably his best display in a City shirt. Set up one, scored another and could have had more.
Man City head to Southampton on Saturday, April 8. Liverpool head to Chelsea on Tuesday, April 4 before hosting Arsenal on April 9.
How to watch Manchester City vs Liverpool live, stream link and start time
Kick off: 7:30am ET, Saturday TV Channel: Peacock Online: Stream via Peacock Premium
Manchester City vs Liverpool live analysis! – By Joe Prince-Wright at the Etihad Stadium
FULL TIME: Manchester City 4-1 Liverpool – Well, that was rather straightforward in the end, wasn’t it? City were sensational in the second half and Liverpool just couldn’t recover from that early goal after half time.
Alisson saves from Jack Grealish, as his volley is straight at the Liverpool goalkeeper. City are just messing around now. Liverpool in full damage limitation mode with their trip to Chelsea coming up in midweek.
The Manchester City fans at the Etihad are now doing the Poznan. Quite the party atmosphere here. #MCFC 4-1 #LFC#MCILIV
Liverpool having a bit of go here to see if they can make it interesting but City are keeping the ball extremely well.
SAVE! Jack Grealish looks to bend one into the far corner but Alisson tips it away. Great effort from Grealish, who has been really good today.
CLOSE! Gakpo’s shot deflects just wide. Liverpool aren’t giving up here.
GOALLL! Manchester City 3-1 Liverpool. That should be that. Julian Alvarez with so much time in the box. His shot is blocked and the rebound falls straight to Ilkay Gundogan who slots home.
Liverpool still have a threat as Gakpo just can’t beat the offside trap after a nice ball over the top. City ominously cranking through the gears.
GOALLL! Seconds after the second half starts Kevin de Bruyne puts Manchester City 2-1 up. Poor defensive mistakes from Liverpool and Mahrez crosses for KDB to poke home. Liverpool and Klopp can’t believe it.
HALF TIME: Manchester City 1-1 Liverpool – A hugely entertaining first half. Liverpool a real threat on the counter, while Man City have been a little clunky but are still carving out plenty of chances sans Haaland. Intriguing second half coming up.
Erling Haaland and Pep Guardiola were FIRED UP by this beautiful build-up play by Manchester City! 🤩
Moments after being shown a yellow card, Rodri takes down Cody Gakpo cynically as he goes to start a counter. That should be another yellow card. Liverpool players and Jurgen Klopp incensed. And rightly so. Getting spicy out there as TAA catches Grealish unintentionally. Grealish is then taken out by Trent moments later.
GOALLLL! Manchester City 1-1 Liverpool. Julian Alvarez taps home. Great play from Mahrez and Gundogan to set up Grealish and he finds Alvarez to finish. The TV screens here at the Etihad show Erling Haaland going crazy up in the stands as he celebrates. Minutes later Mahrez almost finds Alvarez but his pass is just too heavy. It is all City now.
A bad giveaway from John Stones and Salah and Liverpool are away again, but Jack Grealish works so hard to get back and stops Salah in City’s penalty box. Great defending from Grealish.
OVER! A flurry of chances arrive for City as they can’t convert a cross and then Mahrez smashes over from inside the box. Great opportunity wasted.
GOALLLL! The goal stands. Mohamed Salah puts Liverpool 1-0 up at Manchester City. A wonderful ball over the top to Jota, who just stayed onside, and Salah finishes superbly. What a goal! I was right in the line with that in the press box here at the Etihad and thought that was offside. Akanji just kept Jota onside.
Mohamed Salah puts Liverpool ahead but it looked like Diogo Jota was offside when the initial ball came over the top. VAR check for offside now…
Now a counter attack as Salah and Elliott both have shots blocked. Lively start, this.
CLOSE! Riyad Mahrez whips a free kick inches wide of the far post. Most of the stadium through that was in. Great effort.
CHANCE! A few decent efforts from City now. Gundogan almost finishes at the back post, then Alisson saves a shot from the edge of the box. Liverpool opened up a few times with long balls over the top.
City look a little rattled early on. Liverpool pressing them high and it is working.
KICK OFF! We are underway here in Manchester. Salah has started up top with Gakpo underneath him. Very attacking lineup from Liverpool and they are pressing very high up the pitch. Extremely similar tactics to when they played against City in their 1-0 win at Anfield earlier this season.
🚨 Hello and welcome to the Etihad!
Live analysis + stream link, videos & more on a huge game for both teams for their title & top 4 hopes ➡️ https://t.co/TsjblqTa7L
The atmosphere is bubbling up very nicely here. The warmups are done and the star attackers from both City and Liverpool were spanking in shots galore. The music is pumping over the PA system here. It is go time. This rivalry has delivered so much drama over the years, let’s see if there are even more twists and turns. I’m sure there will be…
Big, big, big (did I mention big!?) team news is that Erling Haaland is OUT for Manchester City. He has not recovered from his groin injury and Julian Alvarez starts up top. It will be intriguing to see how City cope without their main man who was absolutely on fire before the international break. The rest of the team news is as expected. Jota, Salah and Gakpo up top for Liverpool with Darwin Nunez fit enough for the bench.
Hello and welcome to Manchester for this huge game! It has been a glorious sunny morning here, but the clouds are bubbling up just as the action is about to on the pitch at the Etihad. Buckle up. Sparks always fly when these two meet.
Key storylines & in-form players to watch
The loss of Haaland is obviously a huge concern for City as he suffered a groin issue and did not play for Norway over the international break and returned to Manchester for treatment. Julian Alvarez comes in, which is a pretty good back-up option. Elsewhere, City are flying with Jack Grealish, Riyad Mahrez and Ilkay Gunodgan having a big role to play with Phil Foden out following his appendix issue. As always, Kevin de Bruyne is the main man and will relish this chance to cut Arsenal’s lead atop the table.
Liverpool just can’t find consistency right now. They have improved defensively but they are a real Jekyll and Hyde team. Jurgen Klopp isn’t a fan of that and showed his frustration after their defeat at Bournemouth, which was their last Premier League game and was way back on March 11. He’s had a few weeks to stew over that loss and it will be intriguing to see what plan he has come up with. For this game as earlier this season Liverpool beat Man City 1-0 at Anfield by playing a front four which pinned City in.
Manchester City team news, injuries, lineup
OUT: Phil Foden (appendix removed), Erling Haaland (groin)
Your City XI 📋
XI | Ederson, Stones, Akanji, Dias, Ake, Rodrigo, Gundogan (C), De Bruyne, Mahrez, Grealish, Alvarez
How to watch Bournemouth vs Fulham live, stream link and start time
Kick off: 10am ET, Saturday TV Channel: Peacock Online: Stream via Peacock Premium
Key storylines & in-form players to watch
Gary O’Neil has set Bournemouth up to be dangerous on the counter attack and that works well against teams who love to dominate possession. Fulham love to do that and this tactic could suit the Cherries in this game. Dominic Solanke has led the line superbly, Neto has been excellent in goal and Dango Ouatrara has been sensational since arriving in January as his speed and direct running has given Bournemouth an extra dimension.
Fulham have just lost their way after an incredible season so far. They are still in the battle for European qualification as they sit in the top 10 and now they have to finish the campaign strong to keep positive vibes flowing. Marco Silva wants them to snap into challenges, press high and keep the ball when they have it and they are horrible to play against.
Bournemouth team news, injuries, lineup
OUT: Junior Stanislas (undisclosed), Adam Smith (groin)