Given Monaco’s lack of true Champions League pedigree, it would be easy to assume Manchester City will breeze through to the quarter-finals. But that was what many thought when they met Arsenal at this stage two years ago, and they progressed with excellent performances against the Gunners.
This year, the club from the Principality are arguably in a better place. Leonardo Jardim’s side are currently top of Ligue 1, ahead of the side that put Barcelona to the sword last week, and playing some of the most attractive football in Europe full of pace and creativity.
The game will probably start slowly. Because both teams possess the ability to control the tempo of the game, there will be some early power play. Frustratingly, for City boss Pep Guardiola, Ilkay Gundogan is still injured and will miss out. Without him, the team lacks that ball player from deep that Monaco have in Moutinho. Youngster Tiemoue Bakayoko patrols the midfield and will attempt to cut the supply line to David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne, the main men who make things happen. Monaco’s superior ability to link attack and defence will be crucial if they are to fulfil their potential in this tie, but that also puts pressure on Yaya Toure to perform.
Monaco share similarities in their play to Everton, a side who beat City 4-0 at home in January. On that day, Toure let the game pass him by, unable to get up to the pace. If he does in this game, City can take control and nullify Monaco’s threat. They also drew at the Etihad playing in a similar way, so there are definite opportunities for Monaco, but with Sergio Aguero up front, City should have the quality to edge ahead.