Manchester United legend-turned-pundit Rio Ferdinand has backed Manchester City and Liverpool to progress to this season’s Champions League final.
City booked their spot in the last four of the competition with a hard-fought 1-0 aggregate win over Atletico Madrid. They were on the back foot during vast parts of the second leg (0-0) at the Wanda Metropolitano, but managed to prevail after a strong defensive resolve.
On the other hand, the Reds had a relatively comfortable tie against Benfica. Having registered a 3-1 win away from home, manager Jurgen Klopp was willing to rotate his team heavily at Anfield. They played out a 3-3 draw, but progressed with a convincing 6-4 aggregate triumph.
Speaking on BT Sport after the game, Ferdinand believes Pep Guardiola’s side will reach the Champions League final for the second-year running, beating Real Madrid by a two-goal difference, he said: “I think [Manchester] City go against Real Madrid through by two goals.”
Villarreal have been the dark horses of the Champions League, stunning Juventus and Bayern Munich en route to the last four. However, Ferdinand does not see the Yellow Submarines putting a dent on the Champions League ambitions of the Reds.
He added: “[Liverpool] They know how to get through these situations. They have the experience, firepower and will be just too strong over two legs for this Villarreal team. It’s probably the end of the road for the Spanish club.”
Manchester City and Liverpool have already met twice in the Premier League this campaign. Both games finished 2-2. They will face each other again in the FA Cup semi-final this weekend. The Reds may have a slight advantage in their favour.
Klopp was happy to make seven changes from the 2-2 draw at the Etihad Stadium last weekend, but Guardiola did not have the same luxury with a difficult game at Madrid. On top of this, Kyle Walker and Kevin de Bruyne sustained injuries.
It promises to be another exciting affair at the Wembley Stadium, and may not be the final meeting between them this term. A Champions League final at Stade de France could be on the cards, but Madrid and Villarreal can’t be taken lightly.
Madrid sealed a comfortable 3-1 win over Chelsea away from home before a 3-2 loss at the Bernabeu. They were on the ropes during the second leg. The Blues had taken a 4-3 aggregate lead at one point, but Madrid made their experience count.
Rodrygo bagged a key equaliser from a stunning Luka Modric cross before Karim Benzema netted his 12th goal of the European campaign and his 38th overall this season. The Frenchman will be a potent scoring threat against the Premier League holders.
On paper, Villarreal are probably the weakest outfit in the final four, but their 2-1 aggregate win over Bayern does not tell the complete story. The LaLiga outfit created several scoring chances in the first leg, but were made to rue for some poor finishing.
Unai Emery’s side will obviously defend deep and play on the counter-attack. It has been successful against Juventus and Bayern. Liverpool will need to be wary over the same. Benfica beat the offside trap twice to score on the counter-attack yesterday.
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