A win on Wednesday night will send Manchester City to the quarterfinals of this season's Champions League. With a 5-3 lead going into the second leg, City will have to be vigilant in order to subdue AS Monaco’s lethal capabilities.
Here are three things to watch:
1 - Versatility
In a recent interview, Yaya Touré alluded to a more pronounced focus on defense.
“These two days I think the manager is going to try to help out defensively because, and you guys know, his way is to attack, not to defend, but when we attack we need to have that balance to control those guys up front for Monaco.”
The Blues definitely won’t “park the bus" José Mourinho-style, but continuing to build their defensive approach will show the world that the Sky Blues have all that it takes to compete at the highest level.
2 - Relaxed attackers
Huddersfield Town and Middlesbrough made life difficult for the City strikers, but fluffed chances also affected the Blues’ ability to score.
As Leroy Sané and Raheem Sterling sweep the flanks with Sergio Agüero, David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne and Touré in the middle of the pitch, relaxed intensity will give City’s interwoven, fast-paced attack an edge against Monaco.
The squad is obviously enjoying themselves, as seen in the playful nature of their training sessions.
3 - Pep as “Player-Whisperer”
The art of keeping players ranked 12-18 on the squad happy and productive is crucial to clubs seeking silverware in multiple competitions. City would not be in their current position without the masterful squad manipulation of Pep Guardiola.
Yaya Touré’s successful emergence from early-season back-room drama into a staple of City's success, along with Sterling’s incredible boost in form, are just two isolated examples of how the players are managed in this new regime.
A culture of mutual support and widespread accountability could see City advance to the final rounds of the FA Cup and the Champions League, while also remaining relevant in the Premier League title chase.
City have found a certain rhythm with a stable front six and a stronger approach to defense, but unsettling Monaco will not be easy. Both teams will treat the fixture like a final. Highly energized football should be expected as the second leg of this year’s round of 16 will determine who moves on to the Last Eight.