One will surely fall this time


Liverpool should have their three-pronged attack of Salah (11), Jota and Mane (10) back in the side along with other regulars, including Trent Alexander-Arnold (66) and Fabinho (3), who missed Wednesday’s game. – AFP

ONE of the giants of English football will be slain today.

This is so because Liverpool and Manchester City will meet in the semi-finals of the FA Cup at Wembley, and unlike in years gone by, there will be no replay, or replays.

Should these gladiators of the game finish the regulation 90 minutes on even par, then there will be extra time added on and, if need be, a penalty shoot-out.

So, unlike last weekend’s league game at the Etihad, or the reverse fixture at Anfield in October, when they drew 2-2, one will emerge in triumph – the other left stricken on the ground.

And because both clubs have such great respect for each other and with so much riding on the outcome of the visit to London today, we can expect another encounter laden with heavy blows thrown by both.

In their Champions League quarter-final second leg tie against S.L. Benfica at home in midweek, Liverpool made seven changes to the side that played last weekend. This was obviously done with the Wembley fixture in mind. The Reds drew 3-3 but still progressed to the semi-finals 6-4 on aggregate.

Similarly, Man City also made it to the last-four of the Champions League, holding Atletico in Madrid to a 0-0 draw. They advanced 1-0 on aggregate.

The Manchester side are still in the hunt for three trophies this season – they top the Premier League by one point from Liverpool.

The Merseysiders are targeting four, having already won the Carabao League Cup in February – silverware relinquished by Man City, and which the Citizens won the last four years in a row.

There are question marks over the fitness of Kevin De Bruyne and Kyle Walker, who were both injured in Madrid. Pep Guardiola, though, did get some good news with the return to fitness of regular skipper and inspirational defender Ruben Dias.

German boss Jurgen Klopp, for his part, will almost certainly recall the striker partnership of Mohamed Salah, Diogo Jota and Sadio Mane, midfield marshals Fabinho and Thiago Alcantara along with Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joel Matip, Virgil van Dijk and Andy Robertson at the back.

The winners of this tie will play either Chelsea or Crystal Palace. And on form, it points to Chelsea.

The Blues were unceremoniously knocked out of the Champions League on Wednesday, but not before they gave Real Madrid a real awakening.

Having lost 3-1 at home, the Londoners actually took the lead in the tie when they went 4-3 up, before eventually succumbing 5-4 on aggregate in the Spanish capital.

That sort of performance will lift any side, and Thomas Tuchel will know he will not need to prod Reece James, Mason Mount, Ruben Loftus-Cheek or any of the others to put in another shift like that. Not if they want to win the FA Cup and end the season on another high – just like they did last year when they captured the Champions League trophy.

Palace will be hoping, rather expecting, a major upset at Wembley tomorrow.

The winners of this tie will know who they will meet in the final because one of the giants would have been floored by then, and the other still left standing.

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