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Champions League: ‘Man City & Liverpool two of modern era’s greatest sides’

Both Premier League fixtures between the two sides this season have ended in 2-2 draws

The Spanish duo of Real Madrid and Villarreal will demand a significant say in this matter, but the notion of a Champions League final between Liverpool and Manchester City in Paris is a truly mouthwatering prospect.

And, after the semi-final first legs, the two Premier League thoroughbreds who are conducting their argument on another level will both feel confident they can make what might be a defining date at the Stade de France on 28 May.

Liverpool hold a 2-0 lead over Villarreal after a controlled display of power at Anfield while Manchester City take a more hazardous 4-3 advantage over Real Madrid to the Bernabeu.

They were semi-finals of contrasts but both provided perfect illustrations of why the Premier League is lucky to boast two of the greatest sides of the modern era.

Liverpool, for 53 minutes at least, did not have it easy against Villarreal and their European specialist coach Unai Emery, banging their heads against a yellow wall of defiance until Jordan Henderson’s cross took a fortunate deflection off Pervis Estupinan.

It was all this ruthless Liverpool side needed and two minutes later Sadio Mane poked home a second to give them what, logic suggests, will be a decisive advantage.

Liverpool looked in the mood to rub out any hope Villarreal might have had but instead chose to exert iron control, refusing to give up any opportunity to hand Emery’s side a lifeline they did not merit in this game.

Manchester City are dealing with much greater jeopardy against Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid, who achieved the quite remarkable feat of being totally outclassed for long periods at Etihad Stadium but still somehow doing enough to have a huge chance of reaching yet another Champions League final.

Liverpool were cool while City were gloriously chaotic, a flawed beauty, ignoring the option of containment to keep pouring forward – and it is these two differing styles that make their rivalry so glorious.

Whatever the evidence of these two games, the two sides are united by the common quality of greatness.

Manchester City hold a narrow lead in the Premier League with Liverpool only one point behind while Klopp’s side have the confidence of winning the 2019 Champions League, the trophy that has proved so elusive for City manager Pep Guardiola since he came to England.

City will see Champions League success, especially after the pain of last season’s final defeat by another Premier League rival in Chelsea, as affirmation of their status among Europe’s elite. Liverpool would regard a seventh triumph as further confirmation of their standing among what their fans call “European royalty”.

There is still much to be done but European club football’s biggest occasion would be a fitting stage for the latest episode in a storyline that looks like it will run for several years.

It was noticeable that Liverpool manager Klopp steered well clear of his trademark fist pumps in front of the Kop at the conclusion of what was ultimately a comfortable win. It is, as the saying goes, only half-time and he was not going to do anything that might suggest premature celebration.

Villarreal’s record in disposing of Juventus and Bayern Munich in the previous rounds will act as a shield against any Liverpool complacency, not that it appears to exist in this team. The way Emery’s side were stopped from launching the devastating counter-attacks that have marked their Champions League progress suggest it will take a superhuman feat on their part to come through this to reach the final.

Emery’s body language towards the end spoke of a coach who was happy taking a 2-0 defeat, an attitude perhaps shaped by the fear of a heavier beating after Liverpool’s one-two pierced their resistance.

In seven days we will know. Champions League combat will resume after the latest round of Premier League fine margins as Liverpool travel to in-form Newcastle United and City face a test at Leeds United.

Liverpool will feel confident of progress at the Estadio de la Ceramica whereas City faces the more imposing surroundings of the Bernabeu.

Guardiola must hope Manchester City have not left the door too ajar for Real Madrid, who are adept at squeezing through the smallest spaces in the Champions League, a competition in which they and their legendary coach Ancelotti – looking for his fourth win – believe they are driven by destiny.

If Liverpool and Manchester City prevail, they could put on quite a show in Paris.

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