Man City x Sporting CP - UCL Preview
Back in December 2021, after a strange draw, Man City drew Sporting CP. The English champions will face the Portuguese Champions in the Round-of-16 of the UEFA Champions League.
It's not the first time these teams face each other. The last time was back in 2012 in a knockout round of the Europa League, where Sporting came out on top, thanks to the away goal rule. At least we don't have to worry about that this time around...
Under the management of one of the brightest young managers in Europe (Rúben Amorim, 37), Sporting has already achieved a lot. They won the league during last season (the first time in 19 years) and only had ONE loss, which happened after they were already crowned champions.
Amorim has many talents available, including Man City's loanee Pedro Porro. Players like Porro, Matheus Nunes, João Palhinha, Pote, Sarabia, and Coates, will definitely cause some trouble to Guardiola and his squad.
Sporting play in a 5-3-2 formation, where the attacking is mainly focused on the wings and where the speed and crossing precision of its full-backs is key, when that doesn't happen, they usually hold the ball in the midfield and wait until they find some kind of space for the striker to have a run and get a 1-on-1 against the opposition's goalkeeper.
This is what I think Sporting's starting eleven will be against Man City when they meet in Lisbon on the 15th of February: Adán; Porro; Inácio; Coates; Feddal; M. Reis; J. Palhinha; M. Nunes; Sarabia; Pote; Paulinho.
This is the first REAL test for Pep Guardiola in the UCL this season. On paper, Man City has the better squad in every aspect, but we're talking about the Champions League, a competition where anything can happen, and we've seen time and time again that underdogs usually do well and are ready to cause some surprise.
Guardiola's boys will have to face a team that, although they play with 5 defenders, want to have the ball on their feet, and they want to create chances from open plays, not by just playing on the counter-attack.
Pep has the advantage to have 3 former Benfica players that will play this game like it's their last one because although they play for City, they'll always feel an extra pleasure to play against Sporting and Porto.
The Man City squad will have to play the game with caution, but if they find the right way to unlock the game, then it will become easier.
I would say that the best way to shut down their offence is to give no room for Pote and Sarabia to roam around our defenders and more importantly, Cancelo and Walker must shut down their wing-backs and their runs. After cancelling their offence, City just has to play their normal game and the goal will appear, eventually.
This is what I think Man City's starting eleven will be when they meet Sporting: Ederson; Cancelo; Laporte; Dias; ZInchenko; Rodri; KDB; Bernardo; Mahrez; Sterling; Foden.
I think Man City will have a game tougher than they expect. They will find it difficult to dismantle Sporting's defence, but at the end of both games, I do believe City will come out on top by a comfortable margin, like 3-1 or 4-1.
My other (small) prediction is that one of Sporting's players will play out of their minds and City will end up signing him in the summer, a bit like what happened when Bernardo Silva played against us in the UCL when he was at Monaco.
We will cover the game live on our Twitter and during the 1st leg and we will be in Lisbon, so you can follow our Instagram to see our stories with the atmosphere in the stadium and all the goal reactions.