England travel to San Marino on Monday night in need of just one point to confirm their place as group winners and therefore seal qualification for the Qatar 2022 World Cup.
A 5-0 win over Albania on Friday all but secured their place in next winter’s tournament, with Harry Kane grabbing a hat-trick to go with Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson’s goals in the first half for a dominant win.
But for Monday’s game Gareth Southgate will be forced to make changes. Luke Shaw and Mason Mount have been ruled out with injuries, while Jordan Henderson, Jack Grealish and Raheem Sterling have all been released from duty early.
Crystal Palace midfielder Conor Gallagher has been called up from the Under-21’s as extra cover, but will he go straight into the starting lineup for the game? Here is the team I think should start.
Jordan Pickford is still the number one for England and Southgate, but with Ramsdale’s current form he deserves a start in a game like this where he’s unlikely to be tested much, if at all.
Trent Alexander Arnold
The Liverpool man has been in excellent form for his club side this season but he was a substitute in the game against Albania on Friday where both Reece James and Kyle Walker started. He’ll get the nod and likely chip in with a goal contribution too.
Conor Coady and Tyrone Mings
Southgate has tended to rotate his centre-backs for these games against the more lowly opposition and it doesn’t get more lowly than San Marino, so expect both Coady and Mings to get the nod in this one.
England’s only fit left-back in the squad following Shaw’s withdrawal with concussion, Chilwell is sure to start once again. His good performances in attack will surely lead to chances
Bellingham has been a regular starter for Dortmund and despite only being 18 is one of the most talented footballers in the entire squad. Great in possession, physically imposing and technically astute he’ll have an absolute field day in this game and should start.
Southgate seems likely to stick with Phillips for this game following the withdrawals of James Ward-Prowse, Henderson and Declan Rice since the announcement of the squad. With Gallagher getting a late call up, he’ll likely start on the bench meaning Phillips starts again.
Saka has shone in an England shirt for the most part of his international career, so selection here will likely see him continue that. With Sterling leaving the squad early, Saka should get the nod and will probably get a goal or assist (or both) in a big win.
Emile Smith Rowe
The first time call-up, Smith Rowe made his debut as a substitute against Albania and should now get a start with Jack Grealish unavailable for the game after returning to Man City. His ability to dribble in tight spaces will help create chances, and in his current form he could well get his first goal for England.
The key to the future for England, Foden is essential in any success the team will have and he’ll start here and be the main man when it comes to creating chances.
The likelihood is Tammy Abraham will start this game, but captain Kane should be given the chance to add to his tally for the year. Kane has 12 goals for England in 2021 and broke Wayne Rooney’s record of 37 competitive goals against Albania. He’s only ten goals away from overtaking him on the overall table as England’s highest goalscorer ever, and he can make up some ground in this game even if only given 60 minutes or so.
England are back in World Cup qualifying action against Albania on Friday night at Wembley, where a win will confirm their place in Qatar next year.
Gareth Southgate’s side currently sit top of their group with two games remaining, three points ahead of Poland and five ahead of Albania.
Only group winners are guaranteed a place in Qatar 2022, while runners-up will have to go through a play-off to make it. It makes bouncing back from last month’s draw with Hungary all the more important. But who should start the game? This is our England lineup.
GK: Jordan Pickford
England’s number one has been under pressure recently because of the form of Aaron Ramsdale at Arsenal, but he’s been performing worse than this and kept his place so I’d expect him to get the nod once again.
RB: Reece James
No Chelsea player has been involved in more goals directly than James this season and he has proven his worth in both directions with some excellent defensive displays too. He has stiff competition with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Kyle Walker, but his performances deserve a start.
CB: John Stones
Stones has been a mainstay for Southgate whenever fit and despite having some fitness issues this season again, when he has played he’s been excellent. He’s claimed his City starting place back too, so should continue for England.
CB: Harry Maguire
Maguire arguably shouldn’t even be in the squad this time around if we’re going based on form, but the fact he is means he’ll start. His competition for places is Tyrone Mings who recently lost his place at Villa and Conor Coady who has never really impressed, so it’s a no-brainer really.
LB: Ben Chilwell
Chilwell lost his place as England’s first-choice left-back last year after Luke Shaw’s resurgence, but this season they’ve reverted to type and Chilwell has been flying. He’s been great going forward and defensively solid, so he deserves the starting spot.
DM: Declan Rice
England’s most in-form central midfielder this season, Rice has become indispensable to West Ham and the national team. His ability to win the ball back is unmatched in the squad, he has become a leader and is constantly improving on the ball so he should start here.
CM: Phil Foden
Southgate has previously featured Foden out wide mostly, but this special footballer should be playing centrally. A magician on the ball with great ball manipulation, a killer pass and an eye for goal, get him in the heart of the game to effect games and watch him shine.
CM: Jude Bellingham
Another superstar youngster, Bellingham has firmly established himself as one of the best young midfielders in the game. A regular starter with Dortmund, Bellingham’s skillset is so diverse that he can play any midfield role with ease and would offer the perfect balance alongside Rice and Foden.
RW: Raheem Sterling
Sterling’s season hasn’t gone to plan after Euro 2020, but his spot with England is pretty much guaranteed. He ended a goal drought for City recently and as a key part of Southgate’s England team, he will start on the right wing.
ST: Harry Kane
Another Harry who can count himself lucky that the England squad isn’t simply decided based on form, because if it was the captain would certainly not be involved. But since he is, and he’s the skipper and his record for England is so good, he’ll start and probably score to help them qualify.
LW: Jack Grealish
Grealish’s move to man City has certainly helped establish him as an England regular, but Marcus Rashford’s injury issues have helped him become a starter too. Rashford has withdrawn from the squad, leaving Grealish as the best and most senior option to play from the left so that’s what he’ll do.
Manchester City will not be winning a record fifth consecutive Carabao Cup this season after they were eliminated in the fourth-round by West Ham on penalties.
Pep Guardiola named a relatively strong lineup for the clash against the Hammers, who had eliminated Manchester United in the previous round at Old Trafford, including the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, John Stones, Fernandinho and Riyad Mahrez.
But they couldn’t break down a resilient West Ham side, despite having 65% possession and 25 attempts on goal throughout the 90 minutes as they were held to a goalless draw.
The game went straight to penalties after 90 minutes and after West Ham went five from five with their spot kicks, Phil Foden’s miss from City’s first attempt was enough to condemn them to defeat.
It’s the first time in five years that they have been eliminated from the competition, when Juan Mata scored the only goal of the game when they went to Old Trafford to take on Jose Mourinho’s Man United side.
It means a few less opportunities for youngsters such as Cole Palmer, Samuel Edozie and Zack Steffen but also means there could be even less minutes for fringe first-team players such as Nathan Ake, Oleksandr Zinchenko and even Raheem Sterling at this point.
Elsewhere in the competition on Wednesday night, Liverpool beat Preston 2-0 with a weakened team despite being under a lot of pressure for spells while Leicester were successful on penalties against fellow Premier League opposition Brighton. Tottenham also secured a 1-0 win over Burnley to progress to the quarter-final.
On Tuesday, Arsenal defeated Leeds at the Emirates with a 2-0 win while Chelsea defeated Southampton on penalties after a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge. Sunderland are also the only remaining League One side in the competition thanks to a win on penalties against Queens Park Rangers.
The quarter-final draw will take place on Saturday morning during the Soccer AM show on Sky Sports from 10:30am.
Phil Foden is close to signing a new six-year deal with Manchester City after cementing himself in the first-team squad at the Etihad Stadium.
Foden, 21, is a product of the Man City academy and has established himself as one of the best young talents in the world with his performances under Pep Guardiola.
Foden was among the players with the best output for City last season as they claimed a fourth consecutive Carabao Cup trophy, the Premier League title and made the Champions League final with 16 goals and eight assists in all competitions.
The England international signed a six-year-deal with the club back in December 2018 to commit his long-term future to the club.
But since then he has become one of the first names on the team sheet in Guardiola’s side either on the wing or in central midfield. City wanted to reflect that new status with a new contract and are looking to tie him down for as long as possible.
Foden is a Man City fan since childhood and has a great bond with the club and it’s fans and the new deal is expected to make him one of the highest paid young players in the world.
The young attacking midfielder has become a regular at international level under Gareth Southgate too and he could become a staple in the England team for years to come.
City have looked to sign a number of their first-team squad to new long-term deals, with Ruben Dias signing until 2027, John Stones and Ederson extending until 2026 while Kevin De Bruyne also penned an extension until 2025 recently too.
Foden opened up his Premier League goal tally in the most recent game against Liverpool at Anfield in a 2-2 draw. He’s likely to continue in the starting lineup for City against Burnley this weekend at the Etihad Stadium.
If you ask most football fans across the world who the best young players in the world are, the answers are usually pretty unanimous.
Paris Saint-Germain’s Kylian Mbappe and Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland are often battling it out for the top spot in people’s minds, while some less popular choices including Manchester based duo Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood.
But it wasn’t that long ago that there was another name in the mix for fans to debate about for the podium in Joao Felix.
Felix had a stunning breakthrough season as a teenager with Benfica, before completing a sensational £113m transfer to Atletico Madrid in 2019 on the back of it.
He opted to join the Spanish side ahead of interested clubs such as Real Madrid, Manchester United and Man City according to reports with Diego Simeone seeing him as the ideal replacement for the Barcelona-bound Antoine Griezmann in that window.
On paper it made a lot of sense. Felix excels as one of the most creative attackers in La Liga, and has the goalscoring ability to fill in for a 20 goal per-season star like Griezmann in a team that tends to challenge on all fronts each season.
However at such a young age and with so much expectation due to the transfer fee, the deal hasn’t quite gone as planned for the now 21-year-old.
Felix is into his third season at the Wanda Metropolitano and he has scored just 19 goals so far for the club, which is less than he scored for Benfica in his one season with the first-team in Lisbon.
Injuries haven’t helped, while Felix’s love for attacking and flair football hasn’t really fitted in seamlessly to the way ‘El Cholo’ likes to set up his teams with defence also prioritised over goals. He’s had a somewhat fractious relationship with his manager and his bad form has seen him left out of the side on occasion too.
But through all that, it’s still very clear just how talented Felix is as a footballer. Against Barcelona on Sunday, Felix didn’t get a goal or assist officially but he was every bit as influential as Thomas Lemar and Luis Suarez who did.
His dribbling got him out of predicaments, his quick feet got him out of tight situations and his passing ability was on display for all to see as he carved open Ronald Koeman’s side at will. It was just a glimpse of his talent and ability but it served as a reminder to just how good he is.
With Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann both at Atletico now, the pressure is no longer on Felix to lead the line and be the primary goalscorer. Instead, he is in the side to develop and be part of a unit in attack that is looking to go back-to-back for the La Liga title and make another push in Europe.
Felix barely got on the pitch at Euro 2020 for Portugal as they suffered a disappointing Round of 16 exit to Belgium, but with the World Cup in Qatar coming up at the end of next year he has a chance to get right back to it.
Cristiano Ronaldo won’t be around forever and Bernardo Silva may be the man now but he is also creeping up on 30. Felix is the future of the Portuguese national team undoubtedly, but he could also be the future for Atletico Madrid or another top European team.
He needs to get back to his confident best to show it and he’s now in an environment where he doesn’t have added pressure. If the style of play at Atletico continues to negatively effect him then he may need to consider moving on, but it’s so easy to forget he won’t be 22 until November.
He’s got the best part of a decade ahead of him and I wouldn’t bet against him having another breakthrough season ahead of the 2022 World Cup to remind everyone that there is another name missing from that starboy conversation. Don’t sleep on Joao Felix.
Euro 2020 is upon us after a 12-month delay and it means there will be plenty of faces at the tournament this summer that wouldn’t have been originally.
24 nations will compete to be crowned champions of Europe while playing across 11 cities on the continent, but many will be relying on young players in their squads to fill a role.
Whether that role be as a starter, competition for a place, an impact sub or just filling numbers and earning experience there are plenty of quality youngsters that will be involved. With the tournament kicking off tomorrow, here are five youngsters to keep a close eye on.
The Barcelona youngster made a very big impression in his first season with the first-team under Ronald Koeman.
Originally coming through as a winger, the 18-year-old moved over into central midfield as the season progressed and made the role his own alongside Frenkie De Jong and Sergio Busquets. A fantastic passer, Pedri is also a great dribbler and breaks the lines well. Defensively his work rate is excellent too and while he faces plenty of competition to get into the side, once he gets his chance I fully expect him take it with both hands.
His transition from Las Palmas to Barcelona was seamless, and I expect his transition to international football will be just as good.
After coming through the Chelsea academy and representing England at youth level, Jamal Musiala made the move to Germany with Bayern Munich and chose to represent the country of his birth at international level.
At just 18-years-old, Musiala established himself as part of Bayern’s first-team squad this season and made 39 appearances, scoring seven times. Playing mostly as a number ten when he did play, his willingness to play on the half-turn and confidence to try things with the ball really set him apart from the rest of the players his age.
His end product is great and he won’t be expected to play much, but if given the chance he is good enough to make an impact against any defence he may come up against.
This might be a bit of a cop out since Foden has been on everyone’s list for a couple of years, but if this tournament took place last year as it was meant to then he wouldn’t have been in the squad.
This season though he had a superb campaign with Manchester City, winning the PFA Young Player of the Year and registering double digits for goals and assists across all competitions. Brilliant passing, a delicate first touch, driving dribbling and versatile with the positions he can play, Foden will be right in Gareth Southgate’s thinking for the England team
He’s probably the one who will play the biggest role for his nation during this tournament and is a superstar in the making.
The only defender on this list comes from the reigning European champions and is another player who has benefited from the tournament being delayed by a year.
Playing as a left-back or left wing-back for Sporting CP this season, the Lisbon side won the league for the first time in 19 years and Mendes was a big part of that. His pace is tremendous and his drive with the ball makes him a constant threat going forward.
He started both warm-up games in the build up tournament and it seems that he is the new first-choice left-back ahead of Raphael Guerreiro, so he has some big shoes to fill.
Holland are well known for producing absolute gems when it comes to young players, but Gravenberch might be the best one in a little while.
The Ajax starlet broke into the first-team this season as they won another Eredivisie title and played a starring role in central midfield. Compared to Paul Pogba because of his tall frame but brilliant technical ability, the 18-year-old has got all the attributes to really dominate a midfield and control a midfield.
Alongside the experience of Gini Wijnaldum and composure of De Jong in midfield, Gravenberch has a great chance of making a real name for himself this summer.
The final game of the club season takes place this weekend as Manchester City look to make history in their first ever Champions League final against 2012 winners Chelsea, in an all-Premier League affair.
Man City are the champions of England and current Carabao Cup holders, after a stellar campaign saw Pep Guardiola’s side clinch a third title in four years while also ensuring a run of four consecutive years with a trophy.
Chelsea on the other hand came fourth in the league and lost in the FA Cup final earlier this month to Leicester City, but have proven increasingly tough to beat since manager Thomas Tuchel took charge in January.
It’s been a tough road to the final for both sides too, earning their place in the final with big wins over European heavyweights.
City won five out of six games in their group to finish top, with a draw against Porto the only game that the club haven’t won in this years competition. They dispatched of Borussia Moenchengladbach in the round of 16, before edging past Borussia Dortmund in the quarter-finals and then Paris Saint-Germain in the semi-finals, winning home and away in all six games.
Chelsea’s run has been similarly difficult but also successful. They navigated the group stages with Frank Lampard as the manager, finishing top with four wins from six. They then beat newly crowned La Liga champions Atletico Madrid both home and away before a tight game against FC Porto saw them win 2-0 in the away leg but losing 1-0 in the home leg. They then took on Real Madrid and drew at the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium before a 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge to set up the final.
Over the last few months both sides have met domestically in tight, tactical encounters. In the FA Cup semi-finals Chelsea were able to stay tight and compact, using the counter-attack impressively to come away with a victory thanks to Hakim Ziyech’s goal.
Guardiola used a weakened team in the clash but they still went toe-to-toe and just lacked the killer edge in the final third. The Premier League game earlier this month was just as close, with the Catalan gaffer deciding to go for a peculiar tactical setup.
This time City took the lead and then were awarded a penalty, only for Sergio Aguero to attempt a panenka penalty that went horribly wrong. From then on, Chelsea were able to take over the game and after Ziyech scored an equaliser they stole all three points in injury time thanks to Marcos Alonso.
The psychological edge is certainly with the west London side with two wins from two games, however their setup is quite predictable at this stage. Personnel is likely to change, but the three-at-the-back system with wing-backs high up the pitch and defensive midfielders supporting the technical attack is something Guardiola will for sure have been working on over the last few weeks.
City took Chelsea to the edge in both games and never really got out of second gear in either game, without using their strongest team too. Guardiola’s pure strength in depth make his tactical setup and team selection much tougher for Tuchel to try and figure out.
Add to that the fact that Pep Guardiola has won 14 of 15 cup finals he’s been in and that they ended the season strongly while Chelsea limped over the line in the Premier League tells me that this trophy will have a new name on it at the end of the night.
Defensively they have been one of the best teams in Europe this season and going forward they have so much quality and intensity to their play that Chelsea will struggle to keep them at bay if forced to defend for long spells.
Mason Mount and Phil Foden will be the keys to success for each team, but the difference is that if Foden has a tough game then Guardiola can call upon Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva, Ilkay Gundogan or Aguero to lead the charge. Chelsea have shown in large spells that if Mount doesn’t turn up, the rest of the team struggle to step up in his absence.
Guardiola will have his team heavily motivated to make history and while Chelsea will put up a good fight, City will just have too much for them and will be crowned champions of Europe for the first time ever.
Today is the day that Gareth Southgate makes half the nation absolutely ecstatic and the other half furious as he names his England squad for this summer’s European Championships.
UEFA agreed to allow an extra three places in the squad for managers to add following a full campaign of a hectic schedule owing to the COVID-19 pandemic over the last 18 months or so.
That should make it a little bit easier to select a squad but there will still be some big names who miss out. While Southgate will name a provisional squad today, I wanted to see just how difficult it is to do and how different people will react, so this is my 26-man England squad for Euro 2020.
Jordan Pickford: The Everton stopper’s place as number one for the national team had come under doubt this season but Southgate has stuck by him for the most part and he will 100% be in the squad.
Dean Henderson: He’s always had great ability and has come through the youth ranks with England. Now as Manchester United’s number one, he has earned his place in the senior England team too.
Sam Johnstone: The third spot was sure to be Nick Pope’s, but the Burnley keeper needs knee surgery and is almost certain to be ruled out of the tournament. That means West Brom keeper Johnstone will get the chance to be part of the squad as the third choice.
Kyle Walker: Quite comfortably the best performing English right-back this season, Walker won the Premier League and is in the Champions League with Manchester City and deserves his spot. He also offers some flexibility if needed, having played as a centre-back at the 2018 World Cup too.
Reece James: A young right-back, James’ season started impeccably and while he didn’t keep that level throughout the season he wasn’t bad. Good going forward and excellent in a one-on-one situation with a great delivery, he deserves a chance.
Trent Alexander-Arnold: The fact his spot in the squad is so in question is bonkers to me. He had a really tough first half of the season and was rightly left out of the last England squad, but since then he has been back to his brilliant best. He’s improved defensively and has an X-factor when going forward that should make him a shoe-in.
Ben Chilwell: Southgate’s first choice left-back for the most part has had a good debut campaign with Chelsea this season and could top it off by winning the Champions League. He’s decent at both ends of the pitch and this is one of the positions where the choices are pretty clear.
Luke Shaw: Quite comfortably the best left-back in the country this season, Shaw has seen an incredible resurgence in his career this season. He’s been fantastic going forward, with a career high of assists this season but also solid defensively and can even fill in as a third centre-back in a back three too so he’s in.
Harry Maguire: England’s best centre-back and a leader at the back, he’s had a very good season for Manchester United. Aerially he is dominant and while he has got a lack of pace, he knows how to play without it for the most part and shines for Southgate so will start so long as he recovers from his ankle injury.
John Stones:Another player who has seen a huge resurgence in their career this season, Man City have a lot to thank Stones for. While Ruben Dias picked up much of the plaudits (and rightly so), Stones shone next to him and his passing ability from the back should see him as a starter alongside Maguire with fitness permitting.
Ezri Konsa: While I don’t expect him to go, Konsa is more than deserving of a spot in the squad after the season he has had. Alongside Tyrone Mings, he has shown a fantastic ability in all aspects of defending as well as playing out from the back and in my eyes has outshone his centre-back partner. He has great pace to cover round and is good on the ball to build from the back too, meaning he’d fit into the squad brilliantly.
Fikayo Tomori: For sure a wildcard pick, but Tomori’s form since his January loan move to AC Milan can’t be ignored. He was brilliant in Serie A and the Europa League and caught the eye of everyone who paid any sort of attention. That means if Southgate was doing his job properly he’d have spotted him too, and he deserves an inclusion based on form and ability over Wolves captain Conor Coady.
Jordan Henderson: Arguably the biggest character in the camp, Henderson is an automatic pick if he’s fit. Great energy, leadership, solid defensively and a decent passing range too, he starts never mind gets included in the squad.
Declan Rice: Potentially the most important piece of the jigsaw in Southgate’s midfield, the West Ham man’s defensive qualities are something that only he brings to the squad. A fantastic tackler with great awareness, he will be key if England get into the latter stages to take on the better teams.
Jude Bellingham: Not many people will have had him down as getting into this squad at the start of the season, but the 17-year-old has been sensational for Borussia Dortmund and earned himself senior minutes earlier in this campaign. He has the ability to fulfil every midfield role and that fearlessness he brings to his game could be huge.
Kalvin Phillips: A fantastic ball playing defensive midfielder, Phillips has been a big part of Southgate’s plans in squads over the last year and he deserves his place in the side as the insurance policy in the centre.
Mason Mount: A real breakthrough campaign this season for Mount, who made himself indispensable for Chelsea and forced his way into the England setup too. Whether it be deeper or slightly more advanced, Mount is almost certain to start and will be included.
Bukayo Saka: The Arsenal man was one of very few bright sparks in a shocking season for the Gunners and his versatility could be absolutely vital for the squad. Able to play as a full-back, wing-back, winger or even central midfielder, he should find that gets him into the squad above anything else.
Jack Grealish: One of the stand-out performers in the Premier League this season prior to his shin injury, Grealish more than deserves his place in the squad. Brilliant ball retention and manipulation, as well as a ball carrier, eye for a pass and top performances for Villa, he has to be in.
Jadon Sancho: Strangely enough there are squads that don’t have Sancho involved and that just makes zero sense to me. A dazzling winger with pace, agility, a brilliant change of direction, goals and assists, he’s performed brilliantly for Dortmund after a slow start and deserves his spot.
Raheem Sterling: After Harry Kane, Sterling is probably the first attacker on the squad list for Southgate and he’s one of them for me too. While his season for Man City was somewhat underwhelming in comparison to previous campaigns, he has goals, assists and brilliant wing play and can play on either side. His quality is high and he’s a must-pick.
Marcus Rashford: The best season of his club career was slowed somewhat by injuries towards the end, but 20+ goals and 15+ assists in all competitions make him a sure-fire pick. He has that X-factor in one on one situations, has brilliant pace and skill, can play across the entire front three and is a good impact sub if he doesn’t start too.
Harry Kane: Well, duh. England’s best player by a distance, Kane is in the squad and I reckon he’ll play every minute of the tournament too.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin: Since Kane will likely play in every game and play most minutes, the secondary striker role is one that likely won’t be used much. Despite that, you need someone who is a presence on the pitch if they are needed and can score a variety of different goals, so the Everton man is the best pick.
Mason Greenwood: A wildcard pick again, but it’s rare that as a manager you have so much quality to choose from and have to leave someone out. But Greenwood’s quality with both feet, whether through the middle or out wide means he absolutely has to be in. There’s nobody I’d rather a chance fell to when I needed a goal outside of Kane and that’s enough to sway me.
The business end of the season is upon us as the final four of the 2020/21 UEFA Champions League is upon us.
Two mouth-watering clashes make up the semi-finals, as Chelsea take on Real Madrid for the first time ever while Paris Saint-Germain will take on Manchester City in the other game.
We’ve done predictions for every knockout tie in the competition so far, so we continue here with the two most exciting attacking sides left in the competition as the Cityzens take on the Parisians.
PSG come into the game having eliminated two of the pre-tournament favourites for the competition, beating both Barcelona and Bayern Munich away from home to be able to progress despite not winning the second leg of both games.
Kylian Mbappe was the star of the show, scoring five times in those ties as Mauricio Pochettino’s team showed a brilliant counter-attacking style over the four games while also mixing in their ball retaining abilities where needed.
PSG will thankfully be able to count on Marco Verratti and Marquinhos once again too, who missed out through injury and COVID-19 last time out while Mauro Icardi is also fit and in goalscoring form once again. It will be interesting to see which front line Pochettino chooses to go with and whether he opts to try and keep the ball in midfield with City or just soak up pressure and defend.
City on the other hand made it through to this stage of the tournament with a comfortable 4-0 aggregate win over Borussia Moenchengladbach, before surviving a scare against Borussia Dortmund in the quarter-finals thanks to a late Phil Foden goal in both legs.
Defensively they have been one of the best sides in Europe this season, and they will need all of that during this tie against one of the better attacking outfits on the continent. Going forward they have been excellent too, with the lack of a natural centre forward leading the line often leaving defences with nobody to mark and causing issues.
Kevin De Bruyne and Verratti in the middle of the park will be a terrific battle, while Pochettino will almost certainly look to his thrilling win back when he was the Spurs manager as inspiration on how to get the Paris club to consecutive finals.
This is truly set up to be one of the most mouth-watering semi-finals in recent memory and over two legs either team could come away with a win and nobody would be surprised.
In goal both number ones are excellent, while the defences are evenly matched. You can argue that PSG have the better centre-back options, while City without a doubt have the better full-backs. In midfield the options are pretty even, while in attack it’s probably fair to give the nod to PSG.
The way that City play with the vast majority of possession and stretching the pitch will definitely suit them, but we have seen how they can struggle against teams who are potent on the counter attack. Their record against Manchester United shows you that, and PSG are best described as Man United on steroids with their style of play.
It’s an incredibly tough game to call. PSG’s style is tailor made for playing away against a side like City, while at home they have shown an ability to mix it up and be solid defensively but also take the game to their opponent when needed.
Overall, I won’t be surprised whoever goes through but I give the edge to Paris Saint-Germain’s frightening attack.
Paris SG 1-1 Man City Man City 1-2 Paris SG (Paris Saint-Germain to progress 3-2 on aggregate)
Manchester City survived a scare in Germany as they came from behind to beat Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League and set up a mouthwatering semi-final clash against Paris Saint-Germain.
City held a 2-1 lead from the first leg thanks to Phil Foden’s late winner at the Etihad after Kevin De Bruyne’s opener was cancelled out by Marco Reus. In the second leg Dortmund started quick and strong and took the lead thanks to a stunning striker from Jude Bellingham, who became the second youngest player ever to score in a Champions League knockout tie.
His goal meant the hosts just had to hold out in the second half, but Pep Guardiola’s side were having none of it. They came out aggressive and won a penalty just ten minutes into the second half when Emre Can handled in the penalty area. Riyad Mahrez slammed the penalty home before Foden scored a belter from outside the box late on to seal the win.
It means that City have made it to a semi-final in the Champions League after three consecutive years of crashing out at the quarter-final stages to AS Monaco, Tottenham and then Lyon last year in a one-legged tie.
The win also sees that their quadruple hopes don’t end just yet, with an FA Cup semi-final to come this weekend along with a Carabao Cup final later this month and just 11 points needed to seal a third league title in four seasons.
It was a top performance from City, who shook off the nerves of the first half to come out in the second and implement their usual high quality. They pressed fantastically well to dominate the ball, they controlled the tempo, cut off the service to Erling Haaland and created chances to stave off the threat Dortmund possessed.
Guardiola’s sides have struggled mostly against clinical counter-attacking sides and Mauricio Pochettino’s side have shown that they are capable of playing in that way, beating Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena 3-2 and dominating a Barcelona side to a 4-1 win at the Camp Nou in each of the last two rounds.
With the pace and skill of Angel Di Maria, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar in attack, they are a huge threat for anyone they come up against and Guardiola will need to conjure up a master plan to get the better of last season’s beaten finalists.
A game that would have been touted as Neymar vs De Bruyne not long ago will now surely be headlined by the young bucks of Mbappe and Foden. Both were instrumental in their sides progression in both previous rounds and are without a doubt likely to be battling for the Ballon d’Or in years to come.
Both opposition managers will make it a big part of their plan to stop the other player and it is sure to be a frenetic two-legged tie that you won’t want to miss.