Venue: Stade Louis II
Date: 15 March 2017
Referee: Gianluca Rocchi (ITA)
Kick off: 19:45
‘Watching City on a Wednesday night…’ The Blues travel to Monaco for a vital Champions League tie on Wednesday. Having won the first leg 5-3 in Manchester, City need to secure another result against a very good Monaco side on their own turf to get the job done. So, what is there to consider?
The Tie is Not Over
It’d be very easy to look back to the epic at the Etihad 3 weeks ago and think that it was job done. It’s easy to forget, City looked down and out at 1-2 down when Radamel Falcao threatened to make it three, as he stood over the penalty spot. But Willy saved, and the rest (whilst not straightforward) is history. The feelings that night ranged from despair to ecstasy, all in the same half of football. However, we mustn’t let that make us complacent.
Tomorrow, we face a Monaco side who have scored more goals than any other side in Europe; a Monaco side who more than showed their attacking teeth in Manchester. It needed Sergio Aguero to have his best game in a long time to get over the line, and a couple of a fantastic saves from Caballero to leave City in the ascendency. Monaco only need to win 2-0 to dump City out of the competition, and it’s naive to think that they’re not capable of such a scoreline.
Of course, you’d back City to score, but given what happened in Manchester, it’s hard to rule out another goal-heavy game. For our hosts, 2-0, 3-1 or 4-2 would do – meaning City will have to play well to stay in the tie. I’m sure that Pep will be aware of the potential downfalls of overconfidence and will have his big guns ready to score a couple of away goals, but we must also be wary in defence – and Pep will know that. If the real Manchester City turn up then we should be in the draw for the last eight, approaching the point of ‘anything can happen’.
The Champions League is Not Out of Our Grasp
Obviously, we still need to bypass Monaco first, but it’s not unreasonable to consider our chances should we negotiate a very tricky second leg. A month or two ago, I looked at the Champions League and thought, ‘well, there’s no chance we’re winning that.’ In all honesty, I’m not sure why. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t me saying we’re the favourites or even one of the favourites; but consider the facts. Last year, under Manuel Pellegrini, a manager whose farewell game left roughly 15,000 in the stadium afterwards, City reached the semi-finals of this competition. By no means were City a force to be reckoned with last campaign, and yet we found ourselves needing a 1-1 draw in Madrid for the right to go and face Atletico in the final.
This year, City have a manager who has been there and done it. Pep has won the Champions League, and has already shown this campaign his ability to get results against the big boys. City were unlucky in Barcelona; the history books won’t tell you that, but if it wasn’t for a Claudio Bravo red card, City are 1-0 down and still creating chances. In Manchester, Pep’s side could’ve feasibly scored 6 or 7 goals against the Catalans such was our dominance, but we eventually settled for a 3-1 win. Against one of Europe’s most in-form sides, City completed an almighty turn-around a few weeks ago. There is nobody in the draw to fear. Of course, the likes of Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Barcelona offer legitimately gargantuan ties, but is there any reason to think that if we turn up, we can’t run it close? Not for me. It all starts tomorrow, a good performance in Monaco would send the message that City aren’t just here to make-up numbers. If we make it through that, who knows?
Sergio Aguero Will Get Better
Since the biggest fallout in footballing history in which Aguero spent a total of almost 4 games on the bench, our talisman looks like he’s getting back to his best. The most exciting thing? He’ll get better. I don’t think we’re seeing Kun at maximum capacity. He’s had to do a lot of adapting to fit into Pep’s system and it’s been hard for him. The most simple way of looking at it is that Guardiola asked him to do a lot more running; Aguero is now obliging. His ability to retrieve possession has been ever-improving since his return to the starting XI, but I still think that there’s more to come.
Whilst Sergio’s work-rate has doubled, he’s had to (at times) sacrifice as much influence on the ball for City, something that he hasn’t struggled with in previous years due to his ability to drift out of the game, only to pop back in and score a goal or make a mazy run. With what one can only assume is an ever-improving physical condition, Aguero will hopefully be back to his days of having 3/4+ clear cut chances a game soon enough. You can’t have one thing without sacrifice, and whilst he a still adapts to Pep’s way of playing, I feel he is not as able to make runs in behind or get on the ball 25 yards from goal. That will change in time, and if all goes to plan – we could see the most lethal Sergio Aguero we’ve ever seen at City. Imagine that.
Not a lot needs to be said about Monaco. They’re going to be very, very hungry for revenge after collapsing in Manchester. If we underestimate them, it will be at our peril. City need to keep the game from becoming another goal-fest, as the security blanket isn’t thick enough to guarantee us a win in a shootout.
I think that City will be powerless in maintaining their away clean sheet record, but I also fancy City to score a couple. I’m going to go with 2-2. Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure to score.