Man City have every reason to fear Sporting Lisbon after bizarre Champions League preparations – Ross Jackson

Once UEFA had mastered the delicate art of being able to pick balls out of a bowl and reading the contents of said balls out loud (terribly tricky business), Manchester City discovered they’d be facing Sporting Lisbon in the last 16 of this season’s Champions League.

Everyone loves a bit of narrative and, while it may look a relatively dull draw on paper, Sporting vs. City is absolutely packed with the stuff.

A chance for Pep Guardiola to bury the Estadio Jose Alvalade demonstrates from 2020’s Champions League quarter-final defeat to Lyon, the opportunity to inflict pain on the rivals of Benfica (a side who’ve had a huge hand in City’s recent domestic dominance given the players they’ve sent their way) and, more importantly, a chance to give the side Cristiano Ronaldo holds so close to his heart a good old pasting.

Still, no one’s settling in for a night in front of the television hoping for some tasty narrative. It’s the action we want to see and City’s trip to Lisbon on Tuesday looked to be little more than a tick-box exercise on their way to the last eight of the competition.

Well, that’s what it looked like before Sporting decided to engage in a 40-man brawl on Friday night to prove they’re maybe not the soft-bellied opponents we thought they might be.

In a desperate bid to re-enact a scene played out in front of every single Vodka Revolution at two o’clock in the morning, Sporting’s players opted to unleash their frustration at having let a two-goal lead slip against Porto on Friday night.

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Shrinking violet Pepe was the unwitting spark of the melee after he went down clutching his head following a challenge by Sporting midfielder Joao Palhinha.

What followed was the type of scuffle that Vince McMahon would have been proud to orchestrate, with players, ballboys, coaching staff, stewards, kitmen, mascots and canteen staff all wading in to have their ‘say’.

It seems the word ‘pacifist’ doesn’t translate awfully well into Portuguese and the referee’s feeble attempt to restore order just added to the bizarre scenes.

In fairness, something had to be done, but throwing your cards in the air like the final game on The Crystal Maze and saying whoever catches them gets to be sent off probably wasn’t the best way to approach the situation.

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Five players saw red in all – three from Sporting, though former Liverpool man Sebastian Coates had been given his marching orders long before the brawl took place, the lucky devil – but there’s every chance the officials could be looking to dish out further punishment once they ‘ve finished scrapping in around 24 hours’ time.

Guardiola’s men will undoubtedly head into the tie as favorites to progress to the next round, but Friday’s antics have added a little bit of spice to a contest that had previously looked to be pretty bland.

If City don’t box clever on Tuesday night and end up getting drawn into a street fight then who knows what could happen.

Do you think City will beat Sporting on Tuesday? Follow City Is Ours content editor Ross Jackson on Twitter to get involved in the discussion and give us your thoughts in the comments section below.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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