Manchester City face European royalty in the guise of Real Madrid in the last 16 of the Champions League.
Every way of looking at this game looks scintillating. Manchester City know they have to beat Real Madrid to progress and although neither side is currently in top form, both are capable of raising their game and going all the way to the final.
Will this though be another key knock out game in the Champions League where City either freeze or come up just short? Is this going to be another game where Pep Guardiola tinkers so much with the side that they forget where they should be or what the plan is?
Will this be the Madrid government versus Catalan separatists? It may feel like that to any City fans feeling the prescence of the Madrid police!
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Will the pressure of the impending Champions League ban and the fact this may be the last chance to win this competition for this squad weigh too heavily upon the minds and stunting the performance?
As it stands Guardiola would appear to have a full strength side available for selection bar Sane, who has not travelled. Maybe he does not have permission from Bayern!
Guardiola will be mulling over the approach he should take and which formation the team should start in, at least notionally. In it’s simplest form Guardiola has to decide whether to set up to play like City or to set up to counter the Madrid threat. The reality is that Madrid are more suited to playing the counter attack, and leaving City open to be countered would be suicidal in a knock out tie.
Especially given the issues City have had all season with sharp counter attacking. On balance, City will most likely use their full backs more deeply than usual to provide some defensive shape, but what happens up front is anyone’s guess. Could be two strikers, could be no strikers!
We know Ederson will be in goal and i would suspect both Benjamin Mendy and Kyle Walker will start at full back. Central defence should be Aymeric Laporte and Fernandinho, but whether Laporte lasts the whole game I am unsure.
Rodrigo and Kevin De Bruyne are certain starters – the issue is therefore just about that third starting spot in midfield. I would expect David Silva to have that chance in this game.
Upfront the only certainty is Bernardo Silva will start, as his running will be needed away from home. I have a feeling both Aguero and Sterling will start.
City know how important getting a positive result will be. Taking a lead into the second leg will be critical should we progress. This might be one of those games we have to watch from behind the sofa.
Come on you blues!