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Supporters certainly got their money’s worth when Man City made the journey to the Estadio Jose Alvalade for the first leg of their last-16 tie with Sporting, as Bernardo Silva (2), Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden and Raheem Sterling put the tie to bed before it had even begun.
The second leg was a far duller affair by contrast, but City only needed to avoid the most calamitous collapse to edge closer to a coveted Champions League crown, and a goalless draw gave them a safe passage into the last eight of Europe’s elite competition.
The Champions League has not been Guardiola’s bread and butter at the Etihad, and this season’s Premier League is not either, with City briefly being knocked off top spot by Liverpool earlier on Saturday before quickly usurping the Reds as Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne struck in a 2-0 success at Burnley.
City’s top-of-the-table showdown with Jurgen Klopp‘s men on April 10 is fast approaching, but the Champions League still eludes the Premier League champions, who were knocked out in the quarter-finals three years running before collecting their runners-up medals in 2021.
The restless Etihad faithful surely cannot envisage the last-eight curse striking again this time around, but their side have strung together a seven-game unbeaten run in all tournaments and had won nine in a row at home in the Champions League before taking it easy against Sporting.
Man City boss Pep Guardiola did not sugar-coat his words following Kyle Walker‘s “stupid” red card in the group stage against RB Leipzig, with the right-back serving the final game of a three-match ban on Tuesday night.
The hosting manager’s defensive dilemma is not helped by Ruben Dias‘s hamstring injury keeping him sidelined a little while longer, although John Stones made the bench at Burnley after withdrawing from England duty as a precaution.
Youngster Cole Palmer (ankle) is the only other injury concern for Guardiola, who named Mahrez and Silva on the bench at Burnley but could now elect to bring the attacking duo back into a rotated XI.
City are not the only ones working around a three-game suspension, as Atletico attacker Yannick Carrasco joins Walker in serving the final match of a lengthy European suspension this week, but Koke and Angel Correa are back from domestic bans.
The duo’s returns leaves Jose Gimenez and MLS-bound Hector Herrera as the visitors’ only absentees for the first leg, with Renan Lodi and Rodrigo De Paul both fit enough for 45 minutes apiece at the weekend after returning from international duty in South America.
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Luis Suarez came off the bench to bag a 15-minute brace against Alaves and has given Simeone food for thought in the final third, but Joao Felix and Antoine Griezmann could continue their partnership for the time being.
Manchester City possible starting lineup:
Ederson; Cancelo, Laporte, Stones, Zinchenko; Silva, Rodri, De Bruyne; Mahrez, Foden, Sterling
Atletico Madrid possible starting lineup:
Oblak; Savic, Hermoso, Reinildo; Llorente, De Paul, Kondogbia, Koke, Lodi; Griezmann, Felix