An air of cautious optimism flows over the Etihad as Manchester City and Paris St. Germain face off in the second leg of the Champions League Quarterfinals. The previous match ended in a 2-2 draw, and now has fans of each side looking towards the semis with a sense of nerve.
City have managed to string together two consecutive league wins for the first time since October, and have found their squad’s improved run of form coincide with the return of Kevin De Bruyne and Samir Nasri. De Bruyne has scored in two of his last three matches, and City now look to punch their ticket into the next round with a win tonight.
On the opposite end, PSG will be without a large chunk of their spine. David Luiz, Blaise Matuidi, and Marco Verratti are all out of today’s game, Verratti attempted to return from a groin strain that has had him out since February, but to no avail. This leaves the bulk of the responsibility to Thiago Motta. Motta completed 105 passes with 91% accuracy, and his through balls provided opportunities for Zlatan Ibrahimovich on multiple occasions, and the weight will be his to distribute again for the Parisians.
The aforementioned Zlatan will be dying to gain retribution on the City defense after missing a penalty and other really good scoring chances, so don’t be surprised if we see the combination of Fernando and Fernandinho serving as a buffer between the PSG attack and the Manchester City back line. Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna did a yeoman's job fending off Cavani and Angel Di Maria, and they will be called on once more to hold off PSG for 90 additional minutes.
Offensively, City will likely have Yaya Toure who has returned from a knee injury sitting as the central attacking midfielder with De Bruyne and Silva on his flanks. This combination seems to be the most dangerous for City, who have to provide Sergio Aguero with supplemental options incase the PSG defense is dialed in on him. Having Toure in the starting lineup will be a plus for City, and given Paris’ lack of offensive options in the midfield, it should leave the Ivorian with plenty of space to attack. PSG could also be without their starting keeper Kevin Trapp, who suffered an injury at the weekend to EA Guingamp, providing more optimism for the Citizens. Italian keeper Salvatore Sirigu finished the match this past weekend for PSG, but if the rumors of a three in the back set up are true, then PSG will need their top man between the posts.
This game is a huge test for the Manchester City organization. Showing that the club can progress into the next round means that they are one step closer to their ultimate goal of winning a Champions League title. Seen as the underdog, City must remain aggressive and attack PSG with purpose if they intend to win, because giving players like Edinson Cavani and Zlatan Ibrahimovic opportunities to score is a gamble they surely don’t want to take.