Welcome to live coverage of Manchester City’s Champions League quarter-final, first leg tie against Atletico Madrid at the Etihad. The two have never met before in European competition but the two managers, who respect each other enormously, as the documentary reviewed via the bullet point above shows, have met on three occasions.
Diego Simeone’s first (half) season at Atlético was Pep Guardiola’s last at Barcelona and the latter emerged the winner in their only encounter (having beaten Quique Sanches Flores’ side 5-0 at Camp Nou before he was sacked). Lionel Messi scored twice, the second a late winner after Radamel Falcao had equalized but the things that really caught the eye that night were the fouls and the gamesmanship. Eleven yellow cards, one of them a second to Arda Turan, punctuated the game with hysterical exclamation marks.
In 2015-16 they met in the semi-final, Simeone’s Atléti winning the first leg at home 1-0 and knocking out Guardiola’s Bayern Munich with a 2-1 defeat in Bavaria, going through on the away goals rule by virtue of Antoine Griezmann . Since then Guardiola has taken City to three quarter-finals and a final in pursuit of his fourth European Cup (third as head coach to go with the one he won as a player). Simeone has taken his side to two finals but since their last in 2016, they have been knocked out once in the Group Stage (but went on to win the Europa League), twice in the round of 16, once in the quarter and once in the semi-final.
After their December slump, Atléti have won their last six Liga games to move up to third, level on points with Sevilla and Barcelona, and hustled Manchester United out of the competition in the last round. Simeone is not one for radical tactical changes and tonight’s strategy will be the one that has served him so well in the past.
“We’re going to play where we think we can hurt them,” he said. “We’re going to use our characteristics, the way we’ve been playing for years, and continue to compete. But City are a lovely team to watch. What I like most about teams that play well like them is the strength and effort they put in to win the ball back while continuing to play in an attacking way.
“They have some great players – Sterling, De Bruyne – but what wakes me up is that they run, they pressurize, they are always active. They never leave a lost ball. This work ethic is additional to the talent. All managers want that .”
Simeone regards City, along with Bayern Munich, as favorites for the competition but is confident his side can prevail over two legs.
“I have no doubt City have extraordinary players and they have better players than us,” he said. “But there are two games to play. Obviously City and Bayern are favorites because of their players but last season Chelsea won the Champions League. Not many expected that.”
Kyle Walker is serving the last game of a three-match ban for City who are also without usual team captain Ruben Dias who has yet to recover from a hamstring injury. John Stones pulled out of the England squad a fortnight ago but made it on to the bench for Saturday’s victory over Burnley.
The visitors’ Yannick Carrasco is also serving the final match of his three-game ban, while key defender Jose Gimenez and Duracell bunny midfielder Hector Herrera are injured. Koke and Angel Correa, who missed the victory over Alaves through suspension, are likely to start.
Join us for the team news from 7pm.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.