Well the second leg of the Champions League Quarter Final has been and gone, with Manchester City securing a spot in the Semi Final against Real Madrid after a 1 all draw with Bayern at the Allianz Arena.
A famous 4-1 aggregate victory for Manchester City over two legs over a traditional European heavy weight, I’ll look back on what happened this week, and what lies ahead with Sheffield United in the FA Cup semi final, and a massive Premier League fixture at home to Arsenal to come, and also a small look at the looming Champions League Semi Final against Real Madrid.
Manchester City 1 Bayern Munich 1 (Manchester through to semi final 4-1 on aggregate)
A tense second leg awaited leading into the Champions League Quarter Final second leg at the Allianz Arena against Bayern. Manchester City were well placed with a 3 nil lead coming into this game after the first leg at the Etihad.
But as with anything City, no matter how good the team is, there is always the Typical City nerves of Manchester City past that always looms in the back of any Manchester City fans mind, no matter how good things are going.
City lined up with the same 11 from the first leg, and Bayern bought back their leading scorer in Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting in place of Serge Gnabry and also dropped Alphonso Davies and bought in City loanee Joao Cancelo at left back.
The game started with Bayern Munich on the front foot, pushed on by a raucous home crowd. It always seemed it would be the case that Bayern would come out on the front foot, and they did and they created a superb chance in the 16th minute after Ruben Dias lost possession in midfield.
A swift Bayern counter ended with Leroy Sane through on goal, but the former Manchester City man put the gilt edged chance wide.
Moments later Dayot Upamecano was given a red card after hauling down Erling Haaland when through on goal in the 17th minute, but the red card was rescinded after Haaland was found to be offside when played through by Kevin De Bruyne.
Bayern continued to press for the opener but a tough, and resilient Manchester City defence lead by the superb Ruben Dias and an in form Ederson kept Bayern at bay and from getting a sniff of a come back in the tie.
Manchester City’s best chance of the first half came from the penalty spot in the 35th minute, after a Ilkay Gundogan shot from the edge of the box was harshly deemed to have been handled by Dayot Upamecano.
After a lengthy delay and some mind games from the Bayern Munich players Erling Haaland stepped up for the resulting penalty. But inexplicably Haaland blazed over from 12 yards, a sight you don’t see very often and that gave even more voice to the home crowd.
Bayern pressed on before half time looking for a way back into the tie, but some desperate and resolute defending from City’s defence kept Bayern at bay and preserved City’s 3 goal lead in the tie.
The second half began with Bayern again looking to come at City to find a way back into the tie. The more Bayern pressed forward the more you felt they’d be open to the threat of Haaland’s pace and someone like Kevin De Bruyne’s precision on the break, and in the 56th minute that proved to be true.
Bayern had a shot/cross well saved by Ederson from the dangerous Kingsley Coman, John Stones cleared the ball after it rolled across the goal line towards Erling Haaland on halfway and headed the ball down to Kevin De Bruyne who ran at the retreating Bayern defence with Erling Haaland in tow.
De Bruyne played Haaland through at the right time, with Haaland left one on one with Upamecano and Haaland left the Bayern defender on the floor and clean through on Sommer in goal.
There was only one winner with Haaland putting City 1 nil up on the night and 4 nil up on aggregate, and the tie over. Haaland’s goal knocked the stuffing out of the Bayern crowd and Bayern as well.
The rest of the game and tie continued on with Bayern knowing they were cooked, and Manchester City knowing they were through.
An unfortunate injury in the 67th minute to the ever present and reliable Nathan Ake was a major concern for what lies ahead, but Aymeric Laporte looked in good form when he was called upon.
Bayern to their credit continued to press on and found a equaliser through Joshua Kimmich from the penalty spot after Manuel Akanji was found to have somehow handled the ball from a Sadio Mane cross.
The less said about the awarding of that penalty the better, but the rule needs looking at sooner rather than later before it costs a team something big.
At the final whistle it felt like a massive moment for Manchester City in the Champions League. Finally City had thoroughly dispatched one of Europe’s elite, and showed the defensive application and ability to weather the storm in the business end of the competition. A sterner test awaits in the Semi Final, more on that shortly
What comes next
A FA Cup Semi Final at Wembley against Sheffield United awaits. Another Wembley occasion for the City faithful to enjoy, and despite Sheffield United currently residing in the Championship, I’m expecting them and their fans to be well up for the occasion and they won’t be push overs on the day.
Of course Manchester City will be overwhelming favourites on the day, but Sheffield United have earnt their place in the Semi Final on merit so another massive game looms for City.
It may also present a chance for Pep Guardiola to play some of the other players in the squad like Kalvin Phillips, Kyle Walker, Aymeric Laporte, Riyad Mahrez, Julian Alvarez and the returning Phil Foden for the big occasion.
With such a crowded fixture list upcoming, full of big games it may be one of the few chances for Pep to get some minutes into the players named, and rest into some other key players for the run home.
Following the Cup Semi Final a tantalising and potential key moment in the title race awaits with a home Premier League clash against league leaders Arsenal.
There will be more to say on that clash closer to the occasion, but it will be a massive game and one that could shape the title destination be it in Manchester City or Arsenal’s favour.
Arsenal may come into the game with a 7 point lead at the top of the table, with City having two games in hand on the league leaders but this game will shape the title race one way or another for me.
As it stands, if Manchester City win all their remaining league fixtures they’ll retain the title, and make it three Premier League titles on the trot, so the size of the match won’t be lost on anyone.
In the Champions League Semi Final a mouth watering tie awaits against last year’s winner Real Madrid. The tie presents Manchester City with the chance for revenge for last season’s bitter semi final defeat, but it will be a stern test against the 14 time winners.
This time around it does feel different with the first leg at the Bernabeu and the second leg at home at the Etihad, and in Erling Haaland Manchester City having a ruthless weapon up front and the majority of City’s line up in peak form.
Me personally, I’ve waited and hoped for another crack at Real Madrid over two legs, so the Semi Final looms large on top of City challenging on two other fronts as well.
All in all a massive week ahead awaits beginning on Saturday with Sheffield United and Arsenal to come, so buckle up again for the crescendo of this current season, it promises to be a spectacular ending to the season.