Manchester City’s Weakness Cost Them in Champions League

Manchester City lost on penalties to Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium in the second leg of their quarterfinal tie last Wednesday. The defending champions lost for the second time to Real Madrid in the last three years.

While losing against the most successful football club in the competition’s history is not a matter of shame, the Cityzens will be disappointed after their failure to breach Real’s defence more than once even after dominating the match.

Manchester City had 33 attempts in the match and earned 18 corners against Real Madrid’s one. However, they failed to score more than a goal, which meant that the match went into penalty shoot-out, which was won by Los Blancos.

Manchester City Has Struggled to Beat Ultra-Defensive Teams at Times

Many teams adopt an ultra-defensive strategy against the Cityzens these days. They know that they cannot match Pep Guardiola’s side in terms of overall quality and hence, rely more on counter-attacks to try to score past them.

One expected a somewhat different approach from a club of Real Madrid’s stature, but it was not to be. As a result, the majority of the match was played inside Real’s half on the day.

However, Manchester City’s back-three, comprising of Kyle Walker, Rúben Dias and Joško Gvardiol, stayed back mostly to guard against Vinicius Junior’s runs. City has often conceded goals from counters in the recent past and Real’s only goal also came from one such counter-attack.

As a result, the Cityzens lacked width in their attack at times, with Walker staying back. Most of the times when their wingers, Jack Grealish and Phil Foden, cut inside from the flanks, their central midfield duo of Kevin de Bruyne and Bernardo Silva switched into the wings to provide width.

Still, what Manchester City probably needed was a 2-2-6 formation, with both their full-backs in the final third to increase numbers. It has happened in the Premier League against smaller teams who parked the bus against them this season.

However, Real’s considerable counter-attacking threat negated that possibility. Jérémy Doku’s introduction in place of Grealish increased the pace in City’s attacks and de Bruyne’s goal also came from the Belgian winger’s cross. However, it was not enough to take them into the semifinals.

Foden and Erling Haaland’s Form in Big Matches a Cause for Concern

Both Foden and Haaland have underperformed in the Cityzens’ recent big matches. Haaland tried to head in a number of times and also saw one of his headers hit the crossbar. However, he was mostly contained inside the opposition penalty box by Real Madrid’s centre-backs, especially Antonio Rüdiger. The Norwegian striker should try to devise strategies to create space for himself in the final third.

He should probably fall back at times or move to the flanks to take his marker with himself. Foden, who has been one of the better-performing players in England this season, probably does not enjoy playing on the right flank as much as he does in a central position. Guardiola will have to keep those things in his mind while chalking up his plan for Manchester City’s upcoming matches. They still remain the favourites to win the Premier League title though.

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