We said that the first leg would be a treat, didn’t we? Possibly the best Champions’ League tie in a long time took place at the Etihad three weeks ago and tonight, AS Monaco and Manchester City tussle again in France.
It is unlikely to surpass the 5-3 spectacle but it is set to be just as enticing as that initial encounter. The Premier League side have hinted that they will look to find an early killer blow while the Ligue 1 leaders have to weigh up whether risking for the goals early or working on the counter will turn the tie around.
So can the Principality club pull off an exciting comeback? Or will the Citizens hold off Europe’s best attack to advance to the quarter finals? The only thing that can be for certain is that there will be goals.
Monaco head into the second leg without influential Polish centre back Kamil Glik, who is suspended having picked up a second booking in the game at the Etihad. However, Jemerson is available again after he missed out on the first match through his own suspension and is likely to come into the starting eleven alongside Andrea Raggi.
Gabrilel Boschilia and Guido Carrillo remain the only other absentees through injury. Radamel Falcao sat out the team’s 2-1 victory over Bordeaux at the weekend with slight injury concerns but was likely rested in order to start at the Stade Louis II tonight.
Manchester City have doubts over captain Vincent Kompany, who has not played since a brief appearance against Crystal Palace back in November. Other than long-term absentees Gabriel Jesus and Ilkay Gundogan, Pep Guardiola has a fully fit squad to choose from.
Jemerson (AS Monaco) – Monaco need goals but to win this tie, they need to be able to stop Manchester City. With Glik out, the responsibility falls onto the shoulders of Brazilian defender Jemerson and in his biggest game since joining the club, it’s time for him to shine.
The 24-year-old has impressed this season having been unconvincing in his first six months in France but now is the time to show his worth. If he can deny City’s attacking players space in the final third and cover Raggi’s distinct lack of pace, Leonardo Jardim’s men will be halfway there.
Sergio Aguero (Manchester City) – The Argentine forward has had an up-and-down campaign but in the first leg, he was instrumental in City’s victory. He scored two but the work rate he put in to harass the defence and midfield all night long was a sight to behold.
With Guardiola already revealing that the away side know how important it will be to stay on the front foot, they need Aguero to keep firing. If he can grab them a goal or two, especially early on, it could pull the game away from Monaco quickly.
This game is still finely poised. Monaco know that they can score goals that can put them through but Manchester City are fully aware of how much they can trouble them too.
So again, this probably turns into a game of the first person to blink. Guardiola will set his team to go on the offensive, so expect City to dominate the opening 20 minutes in search of that crucial away goal that makes Monaco’s task that much harder.
However, if Jardim goes defensive and soaks up that early press, this could get really interesting. A quick goal on the counter, which Monaco have been so good at this season, could put the fear into City that costs them their place in the next round.
Look for Monaco to do just as predicted, possibly getting a second with City pushing a little too hard. With Jardim adapting the team and his players learning from the lapse in concentration back at the Etihad, they nick a third as City press as the English side set up a grand stand finale for the final five minutes.
It’s a little bit optimistic and it could be the football purist talking here, but we have seen crazier in the Champions’ League this season.
Result: AS Monaco 3-1 Manchester City