Manchester City are halfway through a tough run of four fixtures in 11 days, but they have no time to sit back and reflect on their achievements so far.
Pep Guardiola’s side drew 2-2 with Liverpool on Sunday, five days after they defeated Atletico Madrid 1-0 in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-finals. On Wednesday they will take on Atletico in the second leg in Madrid, hoping to keep up their good form and reach the last four for a second consecutive season.
The first leg panned out as many expected; City dominated possession of the ball while Atletico sat deep, with Kevin De Bruyne eventually finding a way through for a patient City. The same may happen for part of the game at the Wanda Metropolitano, although there will still be some key battles for Guardiola to consider ahead of kick-off.
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Diego Simeone set his team up – first and foremost – to defend in the first leg, with two banks of five players permanently camped around the penalty area during the first half.
After half-time Antoine Griezmann stayed up top as a lone outlet, a sign that Simeone was looking to hit City on the counter. The killer breakaway never materialized and Atletico didn’t score, but they were missing one of their best counter-attacking outlets.
Yannick Carrasco was serving a suspension but he will be available for selection on Wednesday. The Belgian will likely start at left-wing back, and his pace and directness from him mean he is the outlet that Atleti will look to most when trying to hit City on the break.
Guardiola must identify a way to contain the threat of Carrasco; Kyle Walker, also set to return from suspension, will likely play a part in that.
Phil Foden was a surprise omission from Guardiola’s starting line-up for the first leg, but when he came off the bench in the second-half he showed exactly why he will be key to City’s success this week.
City had struggled to find space in which to create due to Atletico leaving very little space between the lines, but just two minutes after coming on Foden proved to be the difference.
He skipped past a challenge and sent the defenders into panic mode, a moment that broke their defensive rigidity and afforded the space for De Bruyne to run into and score from Foden’s pass.
Foden has a sense of space and vision quite unlike anyone else, so how the Atletico defense manage to cope with him will be the key battle of the night.
In the first leg City fashioned few clear-cut chances, not entirely surprising given how deep and compact Atletico’s defense was. When the clearest chance of the night came along it was crucial that they didn’t waste it; thankfully De Bruyne was on hand to convert.
During Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Liverpool though City created plenty and wasted plenty, failing to take advantage of Liverpool’s wobbles in the first-half. Few clear-cut opportunities will fall City’s way in Madrid, so when they do get a sight of goal they need to make the most of it.
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