The Etihad will be sparkling on Tuesday evening as Manchester City fans anticipate a sign of strength from their squad in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg against AS Monaco.
As we wait for the opening whistle, here are three things to watch:
1 - Recognizing Monaco’s threats
When they have respected opponents’ abilities, a degree of caution at the back, rampant desire to regain possession and speed on counter attacks have proven to be successful for City.
The tried and true Ligue 1 challengers are more than capable of cutting the Blues open. With Yaya Touré in front of the defense, City have looked more capable of maintaining positive defensive shape. Tuesday night could present them with their toughest challenge of late.
In the interwoven system of responsibility that Pep Guardiola has designed, it will be up to City’s midfield to cramp Monaco. The back line will simply have to be at their best.
2 - Progressive Possession
While they pay due respect to the talents of Monaco, the Sky Blues will be hungry to demonstrate utter dominance. They will be eager to prove that the absence of Gabriel Jesus doesn’t amount to a flat tire in City’s efforts to score.
They definitely have the creativity and pace to give any opponent a headache. The final ball hasn’t come easily for the Blues, though, as injuries and bad luck seem to have held them to slim results.
Kevin De Bruyne always has fire in his eyes. David Silva has been cooler than cool. He’s simply ice cold in a reinvigorated role under Pep.
Could Kelechi Iheanacho be a viable complement to Leroy Sané and Raheem Sterling? His pace, strength and desire could serve to recreate the vitality that Jesus brought to City’s attack.
3 - Endurance
Whichever way the fixture begins, however it evolves, steering the rhythm of the match is crucial for the Blues.
Their fitness has to be reflected in a high energy first half and then a maintained, persistent approach in the final stretch. A second half lull could prove fatal and, of course, the Citizens would rather protect a crop of early goals than force the issue late in the game.
They demonstrated the ideal against Bournemouth, when the last fifteen minutes saw the Sky Blues working the ball across the pitch with incredible ease. If they can gain a lead, they will seek to work in such a way but will have to keep themselves fresh for likely counter attacks and quick strikes from the French side.
Man City have done well to recognize the utter necessity of a win in many moments this season. Even a few unfortunate results saw the Blues give a worthy fight with a bit of bad luck and a too many mistakes in defense.
The squad has proven in recent weeks that they’ve learned from the tumult of this past fall and early winter. In general, the overall coordination of the formation has increased.
The Champions League is at the center of City’s objectives this season after a relatively dismal semifinal appearance against eventual cup holders, Real Madrid, last season.
Tuesday night will be wild but if the Sky Blues revel in the energy and get out ahead, if they show discipline an intelligence, it would prove that their preparation and character gives them potential on the biggest stage.