It was seventh heaven for Manchester City last night as the mighty Blues dumped FC Schalke 04 out of the UEFA Champions League courtesy of a 7-0 thrashing, despite fielding a somewhat makeshift side.
Now in the quarter-finals of the competition by virtue of a remarkable 10-2 aggregate scoreline, it goes without saying that we need to discuss a few things from what might have been City’s most dominant European display in recent memory, if not of all time…
Raheem Sterling leads from the front
Score a 13-minute game-winning hat trick against Watford in the league on Saturday. Star on the front cover of the New York Times sport pages in an eye-opening interview on racial abuse and stereotyping on Monday. Take the captain’s armband on a European night on Wednesday. Raheem Sterling has had a pretty decent week, hasn’t he?
Taking the captain’s armband for his team is a massive milestone for any player. It can go to any variety of player also. You could be the one with the most ability, the one with the loudest voice, or maybe just the one with the biggest heart.
Luckily, Raheem Sterling can tick all three boxes. As the Englishman finally receives something resembling the right kind of attention away from the pitch, it is only fitting his strength is recognised on it, too. Let this be the season we remember when Raheem truly led from the front.
City flex their squad depth yet again
With John Stones, Vincent Kompany, Nicolas Otamendi and Benjamin Mendy unavailable for selection, Pep Guardiola had to improvise in selecting a unconventional back four against Schalke. Whilst some flirted with the idea of rushing Stones back from injury or granting Eric Garcia an emergency promotion, Pep made one of his now-trademark squad selections in finding a spot at centre back for Danilo.
Given that the Brazilian is typically not a starter and was playing out of position, I was hesitant to back the ex-Real Madrid man, but with a clean sheet, a chance created, and two interceptions, the defender certainly proved he can put a shift in at any position in the back line. Playing alongside Aymeric Laporte, the Brazilian seemed comfortable in his role and shut down any attacking threat that came his way. Is there anything he can’t do?
Sterling and Bernardo are certified starters
When considering the first name or names on the team sheet, there are an abundance of City players that can fit that title. However, with Raheem Sterling in the form of his life and Guardiola labeling Bernardo Silva as “undroppable,” one has to think that the English and Portuguese attackers are the first two players the manager turns to come game day.
Coming off a hattrick this past weekend against Watford, Sterling put in another red-hot performance with one goal, one assist, two shots on goal, and five chances created. The twenty-four-year-old pushed his goal and assist tally to 35 for the season, just one behind Cristiano Ronaldo, and is looking more confident by the game.
Similarly, Bernardo produced one goal, one assist, one shot on goal, and showcased “Messi-esque” ball-skills. The ex-Monaco midfielder tantalized the Schalke team with quick turns and clever passes as he continued to shine in the absence of injury-ridden Kevin De Bruyne.
Ilkay Gündogan is an unappreciated architect
Another player who is enjoying the spotlight in the City midfield is Ilkay Gündogan. Despite doubts over his future as the German international is yet to sign a new contract, the twenty-eight-year-old has consistently shown his class in the past few weeks.
Although he didn’t record any goals or assists last night, Gündogan commanded the midfield in place of the injured and suspended Fernandinho. City’s number eight played a few beautiful balls over the top of Schalke’s back line contributing to a number of eventual goals or goal-scoring opportunities alongside his three interceptions.
Whilst it feels as if Gündogan hasn’t fully earned the love of the fans, City should surely look to keep the German as he’s proved his quality – losing him for free at the end of next season would certainly be a massive blow.
Phil Foden scores his first European goal
After coming on for David Silva in the 64th minute, Foden enjoyed one of the longer run-outs he’s received as a substitute, and made great use of his time.
Following a darting run forward, Leroy Sane played Foden in as he took it around the Schalke keeper and slotted it home in the 78th minute. The eighteen-year-old showed tremendous composure to finish for his first Champions League goal and added another applaudable shot on target.
The U-17 World Cup winner looked lively ever since he stepped onto the pitch, and continues to make a case for more playing time with every performance that passes.
You can follow the author on Twitter here: @MCFCJordan17
You can follow us on Twitter for more Manchester City content: @City_Xtra