Manchester City travel to Spain this week to take on Atletico Madrid in their Champions League quarter-final second leg, holding a 1-0 advantage.
Kevin De Bruyne’s lone strike was enough to see off Diego Simeone’s side in the first leg last week, with the Spanish champions heavily criticised for their negative, defensive tactics at the Etihad Stadium. De Bruyne even described their set-up after the game as a ‘5-5-0’ formation, but the tie is very much alive at the Wanda Metropolitano and Pep Guardiola will be wary of the threat Atletico possess in attack.
The tie is, of course, sandwiched between two crucial clashes with Liverpool in two different competitions – so that will definitely be factored into the manager’s thinking when it comes to team selection. Guardiola may also reflect on City’s rather murky record in Spain, but during his tenure, it’s 50/50.
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During his maiden campaign in England, City were drawn against Barcelona in the group stage of the competition and travelled to face a much-changed side. Lionel Messi’s hat-trick and Claudio Bravo’s sending off quickly put any hopes and dreams to bed, with a 4-0 defeat throwing City’s progression into doubt.
It was very different when Guardiola’s side returned to Spain almost four years later, this time against Real Madrid. After back-to-back Premier League titles, the drop off in performances during the 2019/20 season was obvious, but that certainly wasn’t the case in their Champions League last-16 clash.
The Blues were exemplary against Zinedine Zidane’s side and – despite going behind – produced an extremely professional performance to beat the 13-time winners of the competition, inspired by De Bruyne.
Pre-Guardiola, City’s record is poor to say the least. Despite two convincing victories over Villarreal and Sevilla in the group phase, the club have lost six more times on Spanish soil since 1969.
The most notable defeat being the 1-0 semi-final second-leg defeat to Real Madrid in 2016. Despite holding the Spanish giants to a 0-0 draw in Manchester, Gareth Bale’s low cross was deflected by Fernando into the back of his own net for the only goal of the return leg. The club also faced Barcelona in back-to-back last-16 clashes between 2014 and 2015, with crushing defeats at the Camp Nou in each tie the Blues’ downfall – a stadium where City remain winless.
Guardiola and his players will be looking to buck that trend and confirm their spot in the last four of this year’s competition on Wednesday. Of course, a 0-0 draw would take City through, but the Catalan will know the tie can turn on its head in an instant and will want his side to go for the win in the Spanish capital.
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