Can Manchester City make UCL intentions clear in Paris? - PSG vs Manchester City Preview
After a brilliant evening in London on Sunday, winning the Carabao Cup for the fourth year in a row, Manchester City swap the capital of England for the capital of France, as they face Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of their highly anticipated Champions League semi-final.
Manchester City celebrate lifting their fourth Carabo Cup in as many years.
Referee: Felix Brych (GER)
Assistant Referees: Mark Borsch and Stefan Lupp (GER) Fourth Official: Daniel Siebert (GER) Video Assistant Referee: Marco Fritz (GER) Assistant Video Assistant Referee: Bastian Dankert (GER)
This is the first time both Pep Guardiola and City are reaching the semi-final stages of the competition since the 15/16 season. Both City and Guardiola were knocked out by Madrid-based teams that season, so it seems kind of fitting that they united together a few months afterwards, and who knows, they may even finally get their payback this season.
The Sky Blues put the ghosts of their quarter-final past behind them as they came from 1-0 down (2-2 on aggregate, going out on away goals) to beat Borussia Dortmund 2-1 in Germany on the night, and 4-2 on aggregate. Goals from City's in-form duo, Riyad Mahrez, and Phil Foden was enough to guide City into the path of French giants PSG.
Foden celebrates scoring a fantastic long-range strike to win City the tie with Guardiola.
Guardiola confirmed in his press conference that everyone is fit in the City squad and PSG boss Mauricio Pochettino confirmed the same, despite their star man, Kylian Mbappe giving the Argentine a brief scare, as he limped off injured just before full-time at the weekend.
Guardiola and his side will know that PSG aren't to be taken lightly, they have immense levels of hunger inside them as Neymar looks to win his first Champions League since leaving Lionel Messi's Barcelona. While Mbappe looks to complete football at the age of just 22-years-old.
The French side were ever so close to achieving just that last season, but they fell short at the final hurdle, losing 1-0 in the final to Guardiola's former side, Bayern Munich. Since then they have proven themselves tremendously, facing both RB Leipzig and City's rivals, Manchester United in the group stage.
After progressing top of their group, they have since swept aside Barcelona in the Round of 16 and got their revenge over Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals. Now it is City's turn to attempt to stop the unstoppable force.
This may well just be the equipped City side in recent years to do just that, they have the perfect balance all over the field, they have creativity from defence with Joao Cancelo, they have their hardcore leader at the back with Ruben Dias, they have their workhorses and fantastic all-rounders in the middle.
This just leaves the attack, which if you ask many City fans they would agree that their best front three at the moment is Mahrez, Kevin De Bruyne and Foden. But they do also worry that they don't have a striker, which could cost them, but do they need one for the way they play at the moment?
Their four goals against Dortmund came from all three of those players, they might not be natural strikers and there might be times where you sit on the edge of the seat in frustration because none of them are there to get on the end of the cutback from the byline, but at the moment, chances like that can slip away because these players are special and they come up with their own unique moments.
So while Guardiola has a full-strength squad, will he opt for the creativity of Cancelo to open up a few more doors, or the pace of Kyle Walker to match that of the threatening youngster, Mbappe, or even the consistency of Oleksander Zinchenko who hasn't put a foot wrong yet?
Does John Stones come back into the lineup in replace of Aymeric Laporte? The Englishman and the Frenchman have had very opposite weeks, as the former was shown a straight red card against Aston Villa, while the latter produced the Carabao Cup-winning goal on Sunday.
No City fan would ever have imagined a time where Raheem Sterling was the favourite to ride the bench in a Champions League semi-final. Despite putting in a promising 90 minutes against Tottenham Hotspur at the weekend, was it enough to disrupt the ever-threatening front three of De Bruyne, Mahrez and Foden?
Predicted XI: Ederson, Walker, Stones, Dias, Cancelo, Rodri, Bernardo, Gundogan, Mahrez, De Bruyne, Foden
Head to Head
City make the trip across the channel to face PSG on away territory for only the second time in the history of the club. They drew the first game 2-2 in the 15/16 season, goals from now club captain, Fernandinho, and now club vice-captain, Kevin De Bruyne was enough to cancel out Adrien Rabiot and Zlatan Ibrahimovic's goals.
The return leg of that Champions League quarter-final was finished off by De Bruyne who "lifted the roof" with a sensational goal to win the game 1-0 and the overall tie 3-2 on aggregate.
De Bruyne celebrates scoring the crucial goal which put the tie out of PSG's reach.
The only other time these two sides have faced was back in 2008 when the sides played out a 0-0 draw in Manchester. So as you can tell, the Sky Blues are undefeated against the side from Paris, Guardiola and co. will look to ensure that that doesn't change.
Score prediction: 1-2 (Foden, De Bruyne)