City have one foot in the next round of the Champions League
Manchester City achieved a tremendous victory in Portugal after defeating Sporting by 4 goals. Thanks to this result, the team practically assured its place in the next round of the Champions League.
To tell the truth, one of the doubts we all had was which defensive line Guardiola was going to present in this match, as Walker was sent off. The answer came quite early and in fact, it was somewhat obvious, as not long ago Pep had already tried Stones at full-back, perhaps with this game in mind.
That said, it was also very interesting that Delap had his first call-up (and also his debut) in a Champions League match, as the youngster is one of those who has been doing well but unfortunately injuries have not left him alone.
Going into the analysis of the match I have to say that I was very surprised by Sporting's attitude because being at home and with their people, I expected them to be more aggressive, which did not happen. Although during the first few minutes we could see an offensive intention, this disappeared soon after.
Now, I already talked about Stones' participation as a right-back, but to be honest, that position was quite misleading, as due to the team's formation John ended up playing more in the midfield for many moments.
And since we are highlighting some players I would also like to emphasize Mahrez and his incredible ability to understand the games, the guy is exceptional because he really understands where to position himself and when to do it, for example, he understands when to enter the box, when to appear as a winger and when to retreat a little to the defensive zone.
Something I would also like to clarify is that as many of you know, I always talk about the lack of coordination between De Bruyne and Bernardo when they are together in midfield, as I often don't understand the need to line them up at the same time.
Well, today they completely shut my mouth and the whole game was an absolute spectacle.
Each one understood his role in the match, while one was defending, the other was going forward, then, they changed their function, and even, at times, both were in the box thanks to the fact that with this lineup Cancelo and Stones were positioned next to Rodri and helped him in defensive matters.
To be honest, City's performance today is for me one of the best I've seen in a long time because while every weekend we see them dominate, I think this was one of those days and those games where everyone woke up inspired.
Having said that and because in the Players of the Match section I don't usually make much mention of defenders, a brief pause must be made to highlight how good Ruben Dias is, in fact, I would say he is one of the smartest defenders I have ever seen.
The Portuguese always knows where he and his teammates are standing, it's as if he has the field drawn inside his head, he is never distracted and also recovers and wins balls as few players do. One would think that after last season he could not be better, but the reality is that every game that passes his level increases.
Almost to finish, I would also like to highlight the attitude of the team in the second half.
To tell the truth, in recent times we have been used to seeing City play in a more relaxed way to avoid fatigue or possible injuries, this does not mean that we do not score goals, but rather that after 2 or 3 goals the team tends to relax, close lines and "end" the game early.
Here this was not the case, as soon as the referee gave the signal that the second half was underway, the team went out to play as if the score was still 0 - 0.
The match was marked by 4 important moments.
- 7' Mahrez goal: Riyad has always been one of our most important men in the Champions League and today was no exception. His early goal helped put the result on track and helped the team gain confidence.
- 17' Bernardo's goal: To call it simply a "goal" should be a crime because, to be honest, it was a masterpiece, but it also had a lot of meaning, as winning by two goals so early in the game helped demoralize the opponent.
- 58' Sterling's goal: At this point, the game was already defined, but like the previous one this one was also a masterpiece, that's why I couldn't leave it out.
- 84' Delap's UCL debut: Seeing young talents make their debut in the biggest competitions is always going to be a cause for joy, that's why Liam's debut in the Champions League deserves huge recognition, and more so for all he has suffered due to injuries.
Players of the Match
First of all, I want to clarify that for me the whole team gave a wonderful match, but among all of them, I have selected the ones that I think gave an almost perfect performance.
First of all, there is Bernardo, the Portuguese player scored twice in the match and was also in charge of controlling the tempo of the game. He never stopped moving and looking for the ball, so he deserves this mention.
Then there is Mahrez, who since his return has not stopped being fundamental, in fact, I think he has been mentioned in each and every players of the match section since then.
Today, the Algerian was responsible for scoring the first goal and also providing the assist for Foden's goal.
Finally, we have Raheem, who throughout the game drove the opposing defense crazy, also scored a spectacular goal, assisted, and collaborated a lot in defense.
Sterling has always been one of the most criticized players and one of the most demanded to be protagonists in the Champions League, that is why it is great to see him back to his best level and to see that his decision-making is getting better and better.
· Bernardo Silva talked about the second leg. "Still, there's a job to do in Manchester [ in the second-leg vs Sporting], we cannot relax." [via @btsportfootball]
· He was also critical of the team's first half and talked about improvements that can be made. "I think in the first half, we weren't that good to be winning 4-0. A bit sloppy, lost some easy balls to let them counter. We were clinical, and you need luck to score that many. You can still improve and we can still do better." [via @btsportfootball/@_joebray]
· Guardiola was also critical of the team's performance despite the victory. "Some players under perform. We lost easy balls, but today we were so clinical. Every time we arrive in the first 20 minutes, we scored. The difference is not 0-5. They attack with lots of players and we punish them with counters." [via @btsportfootball/@_joebray]
Manchester City will face Tottenham on Saturday, February 19.