And so we go again.
After the drama, the noise and the shock of Anfield, the eyes of the football world will fall on the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday night.
They couldn’t, could they?
On the face of it, Manchester City’s task should be close to impossible. Statistics posted by UEFA show that on the 126 occasions a team has taken a 3-0 lead from the home leg of a European Cup or Champions League knockout tie, they have progressed 117 times. City's chances, they say, are less than six per cent.
In the modern era, only two teams have ever overturned such a first-leg deficit in the Champions League. Deportivo La Coruna did so, famously, against AC Milan in the 2004 quarter-finals and Barcelona went one better by turning around a four-goal gap against Paris Saint-Germain in last season’s round of 16.
History, then, is on Liverpool’s side. Their 3-0 win at Anfield last week puts them within touching distance of the last four.
Why, then, are so many Reds feeling nervous?
“They’re bound to be,” says club legend Jan Molby, speaking exclusively to Goal . "That’s the way of football fans, you have optimism and pessimism – usually both at the same time!"
Molby, in case you were wondering, is very much an optimist. He believes the tie is "80 per cent in Liverpool’s favour" and is convinced that Jurgen Klopp’s men will score at the Etihad. If they do, City will need to score five times to progress.
"From the first whistle, City will have to take risks," he says. "And what we’ve seen this season is that Liverpool are very good at taking advantage of those kind of situations.
"If I’m a Liverpool player, I’m thinking we will have opportunities on Tuesday night. City will at times have to play with three or even two at the back, they just have to go for it. And that should play into Liverpool’s hands."
Molby was at Anfield to see Klopp’s side run the Premier League champions-elect ragged during a pulsating first half last week, and watched with interest from his sofa as City threw away a two-goal lead against Manchester United on Saturday afternoon. Their collapse won’t cost Pep Guardiola’s men the title, but it was another example of their vulnerability, and hardly ideal preparation for a game where they will need to be perfect from first whistle to last.
"What happened to City at Anfield is that they were put under pressure, first by the way Liverpool played and then by the scoreline," Molby says. "That made them nervous, no doubt, and they were unable to play like themselves.
"Liverpool haven’t had that feeling in the tie, and they won’t get it until City score. Until City score, Liverpool will be absolutely fine. But if and when City do score, that is when you need to remain calm and remain in control. That’s what City failed to do at Anfield, and again on Saturday against Manchester United too. Against United they were in control, in control, in control and then boom, Pogba scores and everything changes."
Molby believes Liverpool’s mindset on Tuesday night is simple; score a goal, no backwards steps.
"It would be too dangerous to sit back," he says. "There are certain teams you can do that against, but certain teams you can’t. I know that Liverpool did it for 45 minutes in the first leg, but another 90 away from home? I don’t think Liverpool could handle that."
The good news, if City do put the pressure on, is that Klopp’s much-maligned defence is starting to come good. Whether it is down to Virgil van Dijk or not, Liverpool have kept eight clean sheets in their last 12 games in all competitions, and conceded just four times in their last 10. City, by contrast, conceded three times in 19 minutes at Anfield, and followed that up by shipping another three in 16 against United. Who are the vulnerable ones now?
"You still have respected pundits who tell me Liverpool can’t defend," Molby remarks. "Compared to who? City? Can they defend? If Liverpool concede that goal Chris Smalling scored on Saturday, you’d know about it, believe me!
"Since Van Dijk has come in, there has been a change in Liverpool’s defending. It’s not all down to him, but his influence is clear. He has made them more comfortable, more proactive and solid. They don’t look vulnerable at set-pieces any more, they don’t look susceptible to pace. They look comfortable, organised. I hope I’m still saying that at 10 o’clock on Tuesday, mind!"
Molby expects Guardiola to roll out the big guns for the second leg. City were without Sergio Aguero at Anfield, and their manager surprisingly left Raheem Sterling on the bench, introducing him only at 3-0 down. Both are expected to start at the Etihad.
"Guardiola got it wrong at Anfield," Molby says. "He changed the way they’ve played all season. Their strength is the width, where they stretch you so you can’t cope. He took part of that away by not playing Sterling. It made [Leroy] Sane very predictable, and City didn’t have that same variation
"I think he will go back to what he knows for this one. You need Sane, Sterling, [Kevin] De Bruyne and [David] Silva in the team, for sure. So then it comes down to who plays up front? I’d be surprised if he went with two strikers.
"From a Liverpool perspective, if they see [Gabriel] Jesus on the teamsheet it gives them a boost. They coped with him at Anfield quite well. But if they see Aguero, one of the greatest strikers in the world, it’s a different feeling.
"Teamsheets are important. The first thing you do when you get the opposition team is you look for standout players, are they playing? If they saw Aguero on the bench, or Sterling, it’d give Liverpool a lift for sure."
As for Liverpool, it could well be a case of ‘whoever’s fit, plays’. Injuries have bitten at the most inopportune moment for Klopp, with concerns over Mohamed Salah’s groin at the forefront of his mind. The Reds boss is hopeful that his 38-goal top scorer will be available.
"Salah is crucial," Molby says. "With him, you almost feel he’s guaranteed one goal a game and he’s become an out-ball as well, he keeps defences honest. We saw that for the first goal in the first leg. His form is so good that you can’t stop him.
"You look at City, and where is their big weak link? It’s at left-back, yeah? So if Salah is there, you’re already in business. And if Salah isn’t there, then the left-back, whether it’s Danilo or [Fabian] Delph or [Aymeric] Laporte gets a lift. They’d love to see him off that teamsheet."
There is excitement in Molby’s voice as he looks forward, and no wonder. He will be covering the game for Danish television, and is desperate to see his former club secure their first European Cup semi-final in a decade. They’ve been made to wait for their chance to rub shoulders with the elite, but now it’s upon them. If things go to plan, they’ll be alongside Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich in Friday’s semi-final draw.
"How good does that sound?" says Molby, with a smile. "Look, you can’t keep telling people how great you used to be. At some stage you have to join the party again.
"If you talk about the likes of Real, Barca and Bayern, then you’re very much dining at the top table. It doesn’t get any better than that in European football."
First, though, they must complete the job. It won’t be easy, Molby admits, but don’t expect him to talk down Liverpool. He expects to see them in the last four.
"Of course I do," he adds, with a grin. "They’re winning 3-0!
"I tell you what, ask City if they want to swap places eh? I know what Pep would say to that one!"