Manchester City reached the quarter final of the Champions League with considerable ease after beating Borussia Monchengladbach 4-0 on aggregate. Two first half goals from Kevin de Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan sealed the tie and they now eagerly await for Friday’s draw.
Taking a 2-0 lead into the match from the first leg, City manager Pep Guardiola made several changes to the side that beat Fulham 3-0 on Saturday evening. Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus both dropped to the bench, once again leaving the blues with no recognised striker up front. Raheem Sterling also started on the bench, but Phil Foden was given the nod to start.
And the youngster’s contribution was hard to miss as the Stockport Iniesta covered almost every blade of grass in a win that was more like a training session than a Champions League last 16 tie. Foden complimented a midfield that included both de Bruyne, Gungodan, Mahrez and Rodri, while Bernardo Silva played as striker. And it was a system that worked so well for the blues, it was almost, if not, perfect football.
City passed the ball with precision, leaving their German counterparts chasing shadows for much of the match. The blues had over 67% possession and a passing accuracy of an incredible 92%. The blues had 6 shots on target over the 90 minutes and forced the keeper into making four saves, mainly from the impressive Riyad Mahrez.
But again, it’s the defence that stood out, and City’s back line is proving Pep can rotate the players as much as he likes and still get the same result. 50% of tackles were made last night, but with over 69% of aerial duals won, City have become a commanding and formidable team at the back.
It is in stark contrast to last season, when the blues struggled to find a defence partnership that would actually work. Injury to Aymeric Laporte forced Guardiola to play John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi at the heart of the City defence, a decision he quickly changed by playing Fernandinho in the centre instead.
However, the blues have grown stronger, and the addition of Ruben Dias has brought a rock-solid feeling to City’s backline and could prove vital as they pursue trophies on four fronts this season, a point which the media in particular want to press home…again.
City started with Bernardo Silva up front, but it was the brilliant de Bruyne who opened the scoring after just 12 minutes on the clock. The Belgian had looked a little out of sorts since his return from injury, and while the work rate has been there, de Bruyne has just seemed a little off the pace after returning from injury. But not on Tuesday evening.
Collecting the ball from Mahrez, de Bruyne allowed the ball to roll across his body before unleashing a thunder strike that rocketed past the keeper and cannoned off the bar and into the back of the goal.
And just 6 minutes later it was 2-0, and it was a goal made in Stockport. Foden turned in midfield, leaving his marker standing still and charged towards goal before picking out Gundogan with a no-look pass. The German hitman made no mistake as he allowed the keeper to go to ground before stroking the ball past him and into the bottom corner.
City had more chances throughout the match, but there really was no need to over-exert themselves, particularly with an FA Cup quarter final against Everton coming up at the weekend. And that was the theme during City’s incredible 21 match winning run. The blues could have pushed for and scored many more goals than they did, however with playing every few days and fighting for four trophies, is it really worth risking any injuries?
Can De Bruyne And Gundogan Play In The Same Team?
This question was asked while the Belgian was out injured. During this time, Gundogan stepped up and took City forward, scoring for fun in most games, however since de Bruyne returned, the German seemed to stop scoring.
That wasn’t the case last night as the pair combined well in midfield to nullify any threat from Monchengladbach, and they could actually be the key to carrying City forward and onto Champions League glory.
Can City Win The Champions League?
This is the big question and, while the blues form indicates they could go all the way to the final, it must be remembered they just beat a team low on confidence, having lost their last few games, and the teams left in the competition will provide tough opposition no matter who City play.
Erling Haaland’s Dortmund have qualified for the last 8, as have Real Madrid, PSG and Liverpool, while Porto knocked out Juventus on away goals, making them the surprise package in the quarter finals. Bayern remain strong favourites though, having won 4-1 at Lazio in the first leg and will surely qualify this evening, while Chelsea have brought home a slender 1-0 lead from Spain and look to finish the job against Atletico Madrid tonight.
City have the squad to go all the way this season, and with a strong defence and midfield that loves to score, City have a great chance to win this competition and silence the haters. The only question is will they?