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City earned plenty of praise for their performance in Paris last Wednesday, but some pundits were so eager to heap praise on the runaway English leaders that they seemed to forget their wretched first half performance.
Pep Guardiola’s men were fortunate to still be in the game at half-time following a half that was utterly dominated by the Parisians and the return leg will not be a walk in the park, even if City do enjoy a healthy aggregate lead. PSG have saved their best performances in Europe for their away games, steamrolling Barcelona at the Nou Camp and shocking reigning champions Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena.
Meanwhile, City have not been as consistent at the Etihad Stadium as they have been on their travels. In fact, City have won every away game since December in all competitions, while they have lost home games to Manchester United and Leeds in the last two months.
Mauricio Pochettino’s PSG will hope to exploit that slight weakness to overturn the 2-1 deficit and book their place in a consecutive Champions League final, but there is one significant difference between their trip to Manchester and their recent wins over Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
Those notable victories were predicated on a counter-attacking style of football that worked in a specific context. Both games were first-leg fixtures, meaning that PSG could afford to sit back and invite their hosts onto them. They will have to force the issue on Tuesday night and City will surely employ a system that restricts space in behind.
They may not catch City cold like they did with Bayern or Barcelona, but it will not be a walk in the park for City either.
Tuesday 20:00 – Man City v PSG
BT Sport 2
PSG have scored in every away game in the Champions League this season and their front three of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, and Angel Di Maria are irrepressible at times. As good as Manchester City have been defensively, they are prone to defensive calamities – especially through the much-improved but still error-prone John Stones.
Stones has looked like a new player since the arrival of Ruben Dias, but he is still prone to moments of recklessness and it’s hard to see City containing PSG’s mercurial front three for 90 minutes. At the other end, Pochettino’s side are far more porous than City and have managed just two clean sheets in 11 Champions League games. They offer a plethora of gilt-edged opportunities – as Barcelona and Bayern Munich discovered in earlier rounds – and City have the quality up front to take advantage and make their task that bit easier.
Mbappe was unusually quiet in the first leg last week, save for one explosion of pace in the City penalty area that left John Stones flummoxed and was inches away from doubling PSG’s lead. Having said that, the French forward has saved his best performances for European away nights this season. The young French striker has scored five in his last two away games, almost single-handedly disposing of Bayern and Barcelona.
He was far less involved in the return fixtures against both clubs, scoring just one dubious penalty in the two games. Mbappe announced himself on the world stage at the Etihad Stadium four years ago when he briefly gave Monaco the lead in a thrilling 5-3 defeat in February 2017. He will hope to repeat the feat but avoid the result on Tuesday.
After a slow start to the season by his high standards, De Bruyne has peaked at just the right time from a City perspective, and he will hope to add to his impressive goalscoring record against PSG when the sides meet again on Tuesday.
City’s talisman has scored in all three of City’s previous meetings with the Parisians, scoring in both legs as City edged a closely fought quarter-final in 2016.
Last week’s goal might have had a touch of fortune about it, but there is no denying that De Bruyne is currently enjoying excellent form in front of goal. He has scored three goals in five knockout games this year – including a sumptuous effort from outside the box against Borussia Monchengladbach.
He also coolly slotted the opener in the first leg of City’s quarter-final against Borussia Dortmund and was inches away from scoring one of the goals of the season in the return leg, seeing his low drive tipped away after a spectacular run through the Dortmund defence. City will surely look to him to make sure of their place in their first-ever Champions League final.
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