Man City set for special welcome at atmospheric Anfield
LIVERPOOL, England (AP) — It wouldn’t be a big European night at Anfield if there wasn’t a special welcome planned for the visiting team.
Just ask John Terry.
“I walked out into that cauldron and heard that singing and saw that passion,” the former Chelsea captain wrote in his autobiography about the team’s trip to play Liverpool in the 2005 Champions League semifinals. “The hairs on my arms were standing up.”
Just ask Villarreal, too.
Two years ago, ahead of a Europa League semifinal match, the Villarreal team bus was greeted with flares, missiles and smoke bombs as it made its way through the narrow streets around Anfield.
Liverpool won on both occasions. And while the players on the field have a more important role, the power of the fans should not be underestimated.
Manchester City might find this out on Wednesday for the first leg of its Champions League semifinal against Liverpool.
Not long after the draw was made for the richly anticipated all-English last-eight encounter, a poster was distributed by some Liverpool fans on Twitter, entitled: “Coach Greeting.”
“Bring your flares and flags. Banners and bangers. Pints and pyros,” it urged. Below, a message in bold read: “We’re going to show them exactly what money can’t buy.”
It was retweeted by Redmen TV, an influential Liverpool fan group. For City’s players, it promises to be quite the welcome.
“The people suggest what is going to happen tomorrow, but I still haven’t lived it,” said City manager Pep Guardiola. “We accept that everybody, when we arrive, will show you how strong they are, how it’s going to happen.”
He has seen similar scenes before, from his time as Barcelona coach in big games against Real Madrid, in particular.
“But they had the police to spread out the people. The fans cannot be too much in front of you,” Guardiola added. “Here the streets are narrow. We will see. Hopefully it’s going to go well and Liverpool fans can show their history speaks for itself.”
Liverpool is a five-time European champion. City has never won Europe’s biggest prize, or even reached the final.
European nights at Anfield have gone down in history. City sometimes don’t fill its Etihad Stadium for big Champions League games and its fans ritually jeer UEFA’s Champions League anthem because of punishments meted out by the organization for breaching financial fair play rules.
Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp is wary of relying too much on history to help Liverpool through to the semifinals, despite the aura around the club for occasions like these.
“This club is already full of history and we have to write our own history,” Klopp said. “I meet people over the days and they can tell me each goal Liverpool scored 37 years ago in the 56th minute.
“But this team, we need to be proud of our history but we need to create our own history. I did that a lot at my former teams ... at one point you need to do your own things.”
Not that Klopp is completely against Liverpool’s fans being hostile toward their City counterparts.
“It’s wonderful, it’s great, it shows everything, it shows the passion,” he said. “As long as it happens in a legal way, I’m completely fine with it.”
Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80