Manchester City, fresh off claiming their first trophy of the season, will now face their most stern test of 2021: Paris Saint-Germain at the Parc des Princes. After reaching the Champions League final last season and falling narrowly to Bayern Munich, PSG have returned to the semi-final stage in dramatic fashion by avenging that final loss in this year’s quarterfinal triumph over Bayern.
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Kylian Mbappé is said to be fit for this match, and he will relish the opportunity to once again face Pep Guardiola’s City after scoring twice in Monaco’s stunning 6-6 aggregate elimination of City on away goals in 2017. With Neymar at the peak of his powers as well, heading away to Paris will be an extremely difficult task for City.
Guardiola has had some time to think over his lineup, and likely planned some changes heading into the Carabao Cup final, even despite playing a strong side. The main question lies in central defense, where John Stones has been the preferred partner to Rúben Dias for much of the season, but has recently struggled in terms of form. Add in the fact that Aymeric Laporte was solid in the last match and scored the winner to seal City’s fourth-straight Carabao Cup title, and the Catalan manager has a real selection headache on his hands.
There will also be major questions surrounding the front line, and whether Guardiola chooses to utilize a true number nine, such as Gabriel Jesus, or continue to play with a fluid false nine that shifts between multiple players. Raheem Sterling played very well in the final and in my view put himself firmly in contention to start, while Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez are simply undroppable in their current form, so it could be difficult for Jesus to break in unless Guardiola throws a curveball with his team sheet.
Overall, this will be arguably the most difficult task City are to face this season, yet it also represents their best opportunity to win the Champions League under Guardiola. If the Blues are going to make it happen, they will need to be sharp on Wednesday as Europe’s two best sides this season clash in what should be an incredible 90 minutes of football.
Predicted XI: Ederson (GK), Kyle Walker (RB), Rúben Dias (CB), Aymeric Laporte (CB), Oleksandr Zinchenko (LB), Rodri (CDM), Ilkay Gündogan (CAM), Kevin De Bruyne (CAM), Riyad Mahrez (RW), Phil Foden (CF), Raheem Sterling (LW)