Man City host Atletico Madrid at the Etihad Stadium in the UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg on Tuesday. Pep Guardiola is chasing his first title in this competition since 2011 having been defeated in last season’s final. Atleti are looking back to their best in recent weeks and won in Manchester to eliminate City’s rivals Man Utd in the last round. These two teams have never met but Diego Simeone has faced Guardiola in Spain (W1, L2 vs the Spaniard).
Man City Form
City have won eight of their last eleven matches in all competitions. After a surprise matchday six loss to RB Leipzig, Guardiola oversaw an eight-match winning run with 26 goals scored. A 1-1 draw at Southampton followed before 15 goals and four wins on the trot. City’s only loss in the last 21 came next as Spurs won 3-2 at the Etihad.
The side have won five of their last seven with two 0-0 draws, at home to Sporting Lisbon in their last match in this competition (having won 5-0 in the first leg) and a shock stalemate at Crystal Palace to open the door to Liverpool in the title race. City have since won 4-1 at Southampton in the FA Cup and 2-0 at Burnley in the league.
Man City Team News
Ruben Dias is still out injured at center-back and Kyle Walker is suspended, forcing Joao Cancelo to move over to right back. Oleksandr Zinchenko will come in to start at left-back. John Stones will partner Aymeric Laporte in the heart of the backline.
Bernardo Silva will return to the midfield three with Ilkay Gundogan most likely to be dropped to the bench. It looks like Phil Foden will play as a false nine with two of Jack Grealish, Riyad Mahrez, and Raheem Sterling down the wings.
Man City Motivation
City will want to win this first leg and give themselves less to do in Spain. It’s expected that Guardiola’s team will have 60% of the ball and will have to be careful when defending counterattacks, especially without Walker and Dias.
It may be quite a safe City setup which also doesn’t expend too much energy ahead of facing Liverpool on Sunday. This competition is a higher priority for City than the league so full attention will go to this clash.
Diego Simeone has his side looking back to their best. They beat Man Utd 2-1 on aggregate in the last round having drawn 1-1 at home before a 1-0 victory in Manchester. They went into that first leg on a run of eight losses in 15 as many questioned whether the coach’s time in charge was coming to an end.
After the first leg, Atleti have won six matches in a row including five in a row in La Liga (12-3 on aggregate). Since the second leg victory at Old Trafford, they have won 1-0 at Rayo Vallecano and beaten Alaves 4-1 at home with braces for Luis Suarez and Joao Felix.
Atletico Team News
Diego Simeone once again has an injury doubt over Jose Maria Gimenez, who has suffered all season with muscle problems. He was also a major question mark going into the Man Utd second leg but still started that one. If he can’t start, then Felipe would come into the back three which was so effective in the last round.
Yannick Carrasco is still suspended. Simeone could lead Luis Suarez on the bench start Antoine Griezmann once again. Thomas Lemar and Rodrigo de Paul look to be fighting for one midfield spot. Šime Vrsaljko is fit as a right-wingback option so Marcos Lllorente could be a midfield option again.
Atleti will defend with a back five and three solid central midfield in this one, with two strikers also dropping off to form a solid block. There will be space in the wide areas for Man City but very little way to go through the centre.
A draw would be a brilliant result for Simeone’s men and they will play for one from the start. With no away goals rule at play, a one-goal defeat of any kind is not a disaster.
City have won 16 of their last 18 PL matches (L1, D1)
City have lost once in their last 21 matches (all comps)
City have won 9 of their last 10 home CL matches (D1), scoring 27 goals
Atletico have won their last 6 matches
Atleti have won 4 of their last 6 away CL matches
Atletico have 2 clean sheets in their last 12 away CL matches
This is a fascinating clash of styles. City will have lots of the ball and Atletico will nullify and defend in numbers with plenty of tactical fouls and fast counters. The hosts should get the victory but without Walker and Dias in defence, they could concede a goal.
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