After defeating Real Madrid to reach the Champions League quarter-finals for the third season running, Manchester City face French outfit Lyon with a sought-after place in the final four up for grabs.
With this year’s quarter-finals being single-leg ties, we expect Manchester City to approach the game with a slightly more pragmatic mindset than we have become accustomed to under Pep Guardiola.
Given that the Catalan is desperate to win the competition at City, Pep will demand that his team play to the best of their ability and reach the semi-final stage for just the second time in the club’s history.
Regarding team news for the Blues, Sergio Aguero is still missing although there are hopes that he may feature in Lisbon should Manchester City progress, while Benjamin Mendy is back in contention after missing the second leg of the Madrid tie through suspension.
Concerning our quarter-final opponents, it should be noted that Lyon’s side are not as strong as they have been in recent years, following the departures of star names such as Nabil Fekir and Ferland Mendy last summer. However, OL continue to exhibit the attractive football implemented during Bruno Génésio’s tenure in charge. Former City player Sylvinho was appointed as the OL boss following Génésio’s departure but the Brazilian was replaced by the experienced Rudi Garcia following a poor start to the season.
Although Lyon meagrely finished the season in seventh place, this can largely be attributed to OL’s abysmal start to the season. However, Lyon are a side who are prolific in front of goal, and since Garcia’s appointment, Lyon have scored an impressive 60 goals in 34 games across all competitions. Garcia has also led Lyon to the final of the Coupe de la Ligue and the semi-finals of the Coupe de France, only to be beaten by PSG on both occasions. Lyon should not be underestimated, and, with that in mind, we expect Pep to take a similar approach to the game against Madrid.
Here’s how we think Manchester City will line up on Saturday night…
In goal,Ederson is certain to start and the 2019/20 Premier League Golden Glove winner will be hoping to keep a clean sheet, after failing to keep Madrid in the last round. Ederson did however make several important saves throughout the previous game and the Brazilian may again prove vital in City progressing to the next round.
At right-back, Kyle Walker will surely retain his place in the side after being arguably Manchester City’s best performer against Real Madrid. Walker has been in great form recently, and hopefully, his good form will continue as City look to progress deep into the tournament. At centre-back, Aymeric Laporte should retain his spot given his importance to the side, and Pep Guardiola will be hoping that the Frenchman will not repeat his poor performances in the 2018 and 2019 Champions League quarter-finals, in which, several out-of-character lapses in concentration contributed to City’s exits.
Regarding the Laporte’s defensive partner, we believe that Fernandinho will maintain his spot at the back following an assured performance against Real Madrid. Also in contention is Eric Garcia, who has played well since the restart, however the Spaniard’s future looks to be in Catalonia, and Fernandinho’s commitment, experience and intelligence mean that he should be a shoo-in to retain his place in the side.
At left-back, we believe that despite Mendy being available, Pep will stick with Joao Cancelo who has performed well in the role in recent weeks. The Portuguese international was however somewhat liable for Benzema’s equaliser last week, after losing track of Rodrygo in the build-up. But overall, he certainly played well enough against Madrid to justify his retention in the starting line-up.
In midfield, we expect Pep to stick with the Rodri and Ilkay Gundogan partnership due to the solidity and calmness in possession that the duo bring to the side. The former has been imperious all-season-long, whilst Gundogan’s excellence on the ball often goes below the radar given the more stylish players around him. Kevin De Bruyne will almost certainlyfeature ahead of the pairing. The presence of both Rodri and Gundogan on the field would provide De Bruyne with less defensive responsibilities, thus allowing the Belgian to dictate City’s attacks with more freedom.
Now for the front three. On the right flank, we believe that Riyad Mahrez will return to the side in place of Phil Foden, though it is unlikely that Mahrez will complete the 90 minutes. On the opposite wing, the in-form Raheem Sterling will certainly retain his starting berth. The Englishman is arguably the first name on the team sheet and has so far recorded 31 goals in all competitions this campaign, and considering his scintillating form, I would not bet against Sterling adding to this impressive tally.
Finally, we expect Gabriel Jesus to continue as Manchester City’s number nine. Jesus’ work-rate against Real Madrid was simply phenomenal and the Brazilian was undoubtedly instrumental in City winning the tie. Jesus has enjoyed a stellar Champions League campaign this season having scored six goals and providing three assists in seven appearances. Should his solid European form continue, the Brazilian may again prove influential as Manchester City look to progress to the semi-finals for the first time since 2016.
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