One of the most intriguing clashes in the round of 16 of the Champions League, high-scoring Monaco face off against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in what could be an explosive affair. Both capable of creating a striking brand of football that is easy on the eye, this is a real litmus test for each of the two teams to prove they belong in to top tier of European football.
Neither have had ideal preparation, with both earning draws at the weekend and injuries playing a factor with their starting elevens, but it still promises to be a mouth-watering affair. Is this the moment where Pep’s side finally click again under his stewardship? Or is this the moment that not only legitimises Monaco as a real threat in the competition but also puts Ligue 1 on the map after last week’s exploits?
It really promises to be a terrific watch.
Monaco are without central defender Jemerson, who is suspended. Djibril Sidibé and Andrea Raggi were doubts, but both appear likely to start tonight after recovering from knocks.
Brazilian full-back Jorge has received his first squad call-up, having joined the club from Flamengo during the January transfer window. Guido Carrillo also returns after missing the last few weeks with a calf issue but Gabriel Boschilia is a long-term absence with a cruciate injury.
Manchester City will be without captain Vincent Kompany, who was expected to play in their FA Cup match with Huddersfield at the weekend but the Belgian pulled out a day before after “feeling something in his leg” according to manager Pep Guardiola.
Gabriel Jesus will also miss out with a broken metatarsal and joins long-term absentee Ilkay Gundogan on the sidelines. That should mean a start for top scorer Sergio Aguero, who has been in-and-out of the side in recent weeks.
Manchester City: Caballero – Sagna, Stones, Kolarov, Fernandinho – D.Silva, Touré, De Bruyne – Sané, Sterling, Agüero.
AS Monaco: Subasic – Sidibé, Glik, Raggi, B.Mendy – Lemar, Bakayoko, Fabinho, B.Silva – Germain, Falcao.
Bernardo Silva (AS Monaco) – A maestro of a footballer, Silva has been majestic all season and really delivers when Monaco need him most and the Portuguese will be vital to any result they can get from Manchester.
Jardim’s side have been an attacking machine this season and Silva has been their prime architect, scoring eight and adding six assists in all competitions. A silky touch, a surprising ability to glide past players and the ability to pull a rabbit out of the hat, the Sky Blues need to keep him quiet or he can start getting the Monaco locomotive to full speed.
Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City) – The Citizens have a magical talent of their own and with 10 assists in all competitions this season, Monaco need to keep a lid on the Belgian if they want to succeed at the Etihad.
De Bruyne is the real linchpin that pulls City together, connecting their solid midfield to their pacy attackers as they look either for quick counters or to work in tight spaces against teams who sit back. Possibly one of the toughest tests that the principality’s defence will face this season, the 25-year-old is a game-changing talent that could decide the tie if he is allowed to do so.
I said earlier in this preview that it will be a great game for the viewer but that also makes it so hard to predict. Manchester City can either be spectacular or woeful, while Monaco’s draw at Bastia combined with deficiencies in the middle of their defence due to injures puts question marks over their heads as well.
As is always the case in away games, Monaco need to score. If they can grab that goal first, things might snowball but City are also too good not to get on the scoresheet themselves.
With neither at full strength at the back and both so capable in the final third, I’m going for a high-scoring draw which would suit Monaco to the ground. Take them back to the Stade Louis II in two weeks and grind out a result the classic Jardim way to progress against a tough opponent.
Result: Manchester City 2-2 AS Monaco