Manchester City travel to Signal Iduna Park to take on Borussia Dortmund for their second leg of the UEFA Champions League quarter final tie.
Pep Guardiola’s side are the favourites to win and they take with them a 2-1 advantage from the first leg at the Etihad Stadium. However, Dortmund have that all important away goal which may play on City’s mind.
Also on the minds of players and fans alike, is the fact that the club have yet to advance further than the quarter finals since Guardiola became the manager in 2016.
But that was then, and this is now. This Manchester City team has blown all assumptions made of them away this season, and it’s time to set the record straight in the Champions League as well.
Here’s how we think the boys in blue will line up…
Ederson has made what could be perceived as a few mistakes in the last week or so, but he’s also pulled off some blinding saves and vital tackles. Without him, Manchester City might be heading into this game with a very different aggregate score. There is no doubt he starts again.
At right-back we’ll see Kyle Walker, who stood up well in his one-on-one duels with the opposition last time out. The 30-year-old’s pace will also be a massive asset if City are hit on the counter-attack again.
Alongside him will be City’s best centre-back pairing this season, John Stones and Ruben Dias. Both have been imperious at either end of the pitch in this campaign. Their grit, determination, and desire to keep a clean sheet will be essential to the team advancing in this competition.
Left-back is a difficult call to make, with potentially four or five players vying for contention. The best option is Oleksandr Zinchenko who had a good game in midfield against Leeds, and has proven himself consistently at left-back. Without Joao Cancelo, who has been relatively poor since returning from international duty, Guardiola will want someone to cut inside and assist in midfield, as well as attack down the left wing. Both attributes are in the Ukrainian’s locker.
At the heart of midfield I expect that Rodrigo comes back into the side. While the Spaniard was clearly targeted by Dortmund in the previous game, it’s highly doubtful whether Fernandinho has the legs to start two games in five days. This time, Rodri will need to show strength on the ball and not allow himself to be pressured into making poor passes as easily as he did in the first leg.
We’ll likely see two other midfielders who were also rested over the weekend. Ilkay Gündogan only made an appearance as a substitute, so should be fit for the trip to his old stomping ground. Kevin De Bruyne, whose creativity and end product City desperately missed in their recent Premier League defeat, will lead his team out and show the world exactly why he got his big contract extension.
Up front things get trickier. In the first leg, Pep elected to go with a false-nine which worked at times, but there were moments where an extra body in the box was needed to put chances away. Although he didn’t have the best game against Leeds, I expect Gabriel Jesus will start here. He can be that player to make the runs into the box, while also applying the quick, high press that we see from Bernardo Silva or De Bruyne as the false-nine.
Out on the left has to be Phil Foden. He was arguably the most profligate player in the last Champions League match, but the fact that he was able to overcome that and score the winning goal, shows the quality and drive to win that this side needs in difficult moments.
The same can be said for Riyad Mahrez, who will start on the right. The Algerian is in the best form of his Manchester City career, and although his shots can be as sporadically bad as any of City’s forward line, he has the deft touch and skill required to unlock a packed defence.
Substitutes: Zack Steffen, James Trafford, Joao Cancelo, Aymeric Laporte, Eric Garcia, Nathan Ake, Benjamin Mendy, Fernandinho, Bernardo Silva, Raheem Sterling and Ferran Torres.
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