Manchester City are the last English club standing in this season’s Champions League, and their first ever quarter-final sees them take on a very strong Paris St. Germain side who are also looking to become one of Europe’s leading contenders.
With this first leg being away from home, the important thing here for City is to avoid defeat in this one, or at the very least be still in the tie when they meet again at the Etihad Stadium. It will not be easy for them as they have often come unstuck in this competition in recent years, but while they are second favourites it cannot be forgotten that there is immense talent in their squad and that they have every chance of reaching the last four.
It is certainly a step up in quality for City from their last 16 clash with Dynamo Kiev, where a fine away performance was enough to ensure progress and render the second leg something of a non-event. As for PSG, they will know what to expect having grown used to facing English clubs lately, and they set up this match by overcoming Chelsea for the second successive season thanks to a classy display, especially in the away leg.
Even at the age of 34, Zlatan Ibrahimovic continues to conjure up moments of magic and he has top scored for his side in a season where they have already sealed the French title, such is their utter dominance of Ligue 1. This means that the Champions League is the top priority, and despite his domestic achievements manager Laurent Blanc is under some pressure to succeed in the continent, such is the amount of money which has been thrown into building a squad capable of doing so.
The hosts are likely to have a greater share of the possession and have the ability to turn the screw at any moment, so City must be resolute at the back here, an area where they have struggled on numerous occasions this season in the absence of captain Vincent Kompany. This is the night for Eliaquim Mangala and Nicolas Otamendi to distinguish themselves in the centre of the defence, but they will need protection from holding midfielder Fernando.
In an attacking sense, City must be delighted to have Kevin de Bruyne back following several weeks out due to injury. The Belgian was in top form right from the start as they blew away Bournemouth at the weekend to end a disappointing sequence of results. Samir Nasri – complete with bleached blond hair – is also back, so there is an increased array of forward options available ahead of this huge test.
Willy Caballero will remain in goal for City as first-choice Joe Hart remains injured, while Yaya Toure and Fabian Delph also miss out.