WILL DYER (@w2Dyer) previews Manchester City's trip to France where the Citizens attempt to maintain their two-goal lead over Monaco and qualify for the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
Monaco vs Manchester City | Wednesday 19:45 | BT Sport 1
Monaco’s trip to Manchester two weeks ago always promised goals; these are two of the highest scoring sides in Europe, but we never expected to witness 90 minutes of scintillating football, an eight-goal thriller; the beautiful game at its best.
The visitors led twice but ended up losing 5-3. However, despite the two-goal cushion, Pep Guardiola will know all too well that this tie is far from over.
Les Rogue et Blancs average 3.13 goals per-game in all competitions this season at the Stade Louis II and with away goals to their name, a win by a two goal margin would send the principality club through to the Quarter Finals.
Leonardo Jardim’s men showed next to now fear at the Etihad when pressing extremely high up the pitch and attacking with high octane. The latter ended up being their downfall as they left themselves exposed at the back and the quality in the Citizens forward line punished them.
Now in the position of chasing a two-goal deficit, I would expect Jardim to set his team up in the exact same fashion. He has to go for it now and Monaco know no other way of playing. That should see Radamel Falcao partner Kylian Mbappe up front despite the former picking up a niggle against Bordeaux on Saturday.
Monaco should have scored at least four at the Etihad, Falcao missing a penalty. The Ligue 1 leaders had 15 attempts at goal to City’s six. I expect the midfield of Thomas Lemar, Bernardo Silva and Fabinho will run the show again and create as many, if not more chances.
Most managers would set their side up to keep it tight when protecting a two-goal lead in a second leg but Pep doesn’t really have that luxury. City are still useless at defending, their players lack the nous to sit back and contain, instead opting for all high-octane counter attacks.
The Sky Blues have actually kept three clean sheets in a row but they have come against Stoke, Sunderland and Middlesbrough, a different kettle of fish and it’s just four clean sheets in 34 Champions League away days since 2011 for the Mancunians.
The hosts are narrowly the underdogs to win this at 13/8 with 188Bet and that means there’s value to be found on Monaco goals. Betfair go 4/5 on Over 1.5 Goals for the home side, which I really like; it’s cruised home in 25 of their 29 home games this season.
There were 10 cards in the first leg and the refereeing appointment for this game forecasts more of the same. Gianluca Rocchi handed out seven cards on his last Champions League outing as Legia Warsaw took on Sporting Lisbon.
The two previous times he’s refereed Man City he’s given them five yellow cards, versus Barcelona in 2015 and Real Madrid in 2012. He also has a reputation for giving penalties somewhat easily. However, at time of writing the best price on a pen being awarded is 2/1 at Skybet, which is too short for me.
City Fall Short
I will be on the lookout for some good prices on bookings but I’ve had to pencil this early as I’m off to Cheltenham and the markets aren’t up yet. I expect Manchester City Over 2.5 Bookings will be around the 5/4 mark and that will do nicely if so.
City have played some wonderful stuff of late but we’ve grown accustomed to English sides playing brilliantly in the Premier League and then being humbled in Europe and I've a feeling we aren't out of the woods with that yet. As a result, Monaco to qualify looks too big to me at 4/1 (Betfair) so that’s also going in the book.
They almost single-handedly knocked out Tottenham in the group stage, who sit above City in the Premier League table, and have history knocking out Arsenal.