Building on Last Year
As Manchester City prepare for another run in the knockout stages of the Champions League, the burning question is whether or not the addition of decorated manager Pep Guardiola can push City over the top and into the winner’s circle. Last season, Manuel Pellegrini led City to the semifinals, the furthest they have ever gone in the competition. Guardiola, who won the tournament twice while managing Barcelona in addition to several deep runs in the tournament, knows how to organize his players on the main stage.
While very talented, Manchester City do not have the quality of European giants such as Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid. Striker Sergio Aguero and midfielder Kevin De Bruyne are world class and City have very talented youth. However, if the Champions League trophy makes it’s way to Manchester this season, it will be a result of Guardiola’s tactical genius and his ability to outsmart opposing managers.
No Easy Path
City’s first test starts this week against French Ligue 1 leaders Monaco. Monaco boast an amazing 76 goals in 26 league games this season and have reignited the career of former Chelsea and Man Utd striker Radamel Falcao. The club from the south coast of France also fields several young talents, many of whom have been linked to major European clubs. Midfielders Thomas Lemar and Fabinho both feature on WhoScored.com’s Ligue XI of the year.
The key for Guardiola and Co. against Monaco is to control the tempo and not get bitten on the counter attack. Monaco don’t play possession, instead the strike quickly and decisively once they gain possession. Manchester City’s questionable defense will be tested and young John Stones will need to step up against the quick strike ability of Monaco. Yaya Toure is another player to watch as he needs to be careful not to get caught creeping to far forward in the midfield.
If Manchester City are precise with the ball and avoid mistakes, they should have enough control of the tempo to get by Monaco, but it isn’t easy to stay mistake free for ninety minutes, and Monaco will certainly put them to the test.