Pep Guardiola can pick Man City’s master of the ‘dark arts’ to stop Atletico Madrid

Last Tuesday, Pep Guardiola’s post-match press conference was dominated by questions about the effectiveness of Atletico Madrid’s dark arts, but the Catalan has a master of his own that he could deploy in the second leg. Stopping counterattacks, faking injuries and even hair pulling, the Champions League quarter-final first leg between Manchester City and Atletico Madrid had it all last week.

Instead of the end-to-end affair we were treated to on Sunday when Liverpool came to town, the game against Diego Simeone’s side was played entirely at one end — with City camped outside the Atletico box for the entire 90 minutes.

It needed Guardiola to turn to his bench to find the breakthrough, with Phil Foden picking the lock and Kevin De Bruyne adding the final touches. It was a beautifully crafted goal that gave City the edge heading to the Wanda Metropolitano, ever so slightly.

READ MORE: Fernandinho clarifies Man City comments after Guardiola admission

The Blues were still going for the kill late into the contest at the Etihad — probably safe in the knowledge that, if something were to go wrong, there was still another 90 minutes to put it right. But the game plan may shift if the scores are the same with 20 minutes to play on Wednesday.

It was quite clear from the first leg that Simeone’s men will be prepared to deploy their dark arts tactics from the off. In fact, five minutes into the first leg, the referee had to warn one of the Atletico players about time-wasting from a free-kick, deep inside their own half.

The question is whether that continues in the second leg, or if the need for the hosts to score a goal quickens up their play slightly. The ironic thing is that City may need to do what their opponents did in the first leg and slow the play down to kill any momentum Atletico will try to build with the home crowd behind them – and who better to do that then club captain, Fernandinho .

Talking of the dark arts, the Brazilian is an absolute master, and has a unique ability to control proceedings on his own — even at 36. His inclusion may make certain sections of the City fanbase gulp, but he genuinely could be the man Guardiola needs in this answer.

Fernandinho could be just what Pep Guardiola needs against Atletico Madrid on Wednesday. (Photo by Matt McNulty – Manchester City/Manchester City FC via Getty Images)

While it’s fair to say the veteran hasn’t had consistent game time this season – mainly due to the excellent form of his positional counterpart, Rodri – Fernandinho was preferred to the Spaniard in the latter rounds of last season’s Champions League run.

Against Paris Saint-Germain in particular, the captain was excellent at dealing with constant kick-out’s and attempts to wind up the City players. It resulted in former Manchester United midfielder, Angel Di Maria seeing red in the second leg – all but confirming City’s spot in a club-first Champions League final.

Imagine that game but 10-fold, that’s what Guardiola’s side could be dealing with tonight (Wednesday). And Fernandinho is the person in this City squad best suited to dealing with them challenges, despite his press conference gaffe on Tuesday where he announced his impending exit from him without Guardiola’s knowledge.

Don’t be surprised if you see the well-rested club captain’s name on the teamsheet in Madrid.

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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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