Manchester City are surely coasting into the Champions League quarter-finals for only the second time in their history after this emphatic win.
Pep Guardiola will be keen to guard against complacency and that his team retains focus when the last-16 second leg is played in three weeks time. Yet this was a dream result for the manager as it will allow him to rest players, should he wish, for the return leg.
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Guardiola’s selection showed two changes from the win against Leicester on Saturday. Out went Oleksandr Zinchenko and Aymeric Laporte and in came Fabian Delph and Vincent Kompany, the captain making a first Champions League appearances since May 2016.
City faced the Swiss champions of the last eight seasons with Guardiola having warned how much harder this competition is to the Premier League and that a bad few minutes can mean elimination.
City started on the front foot and won three corners and an Ilkay Gündogan header that came after the first of these. Dimitri Oberlin had Basel’s opening chance and what an opportunity this was. The centre-forward raced behind City and, as Ederson charged out, should have chipped the goalkeeper but the effort was weak, allowing Nicolás Otamendi to clear
This was a warning for City to tighten up and eliminate the kind of amateurish defending that caused them to be knocked out at Monaco a year ago. When Oberlin again ran free, this time along the right, he drove into the area, collided with Otamendi and St Jakob Park roared for the penalty. Jonas Eriksson was unmoved which had Raphael Wicky complaining to the fourth official, Mehmet Culum.
Basel’s manager would have felt doubly aggrieved moments later as City took the lead. This was simple stuff: Kevin De Bruyne swung a corner in from the left and Gündogan beat Fabian Frei to head past Tomas Vaclik from a narrowing angle.
De Bruyne instigated the City second by rolling the ball along the left to Raheem Sterling. The winger crossed and Bernardo Silva beat Vaclik and Guardiola’s men were off to a flyer.
Imperative now was for City to keep playing while closing the holes they had thus far allowed. An effective way of doing this is to score again and so up stepped Sergio Agüero to beat Vaclik from outside the area: the Czech may have been wrong-footed but as with Gündogan’s strike he failed to move.
Vaclik’s next mistake was to mishandle after gathering and the ball squirmed out of play for a corner. Agüero’s goal had arrived after 23 minutes, which meant City’s ask was to be ultra-professional and keep their foot on Basel’s throat. De Bruyne again worried Vaclik’s goal with a skidding left-foot attempt.
As at the start of the first half Oberlin broke clear during the opening moments of the second period. This time Delph raced across from his left-back zone to nick the ball and the danger died.
Now, Mohamed Elyounoussi tested Ederson with Basel’s first shot, the Brazilian flinging himself impressively to his left to concede a corner.
This woke City up. Swift ball recycling between Delph, Kompany, Agüero and Otamendi took Guardiola’s side over halfway. After a Kyle Walker surge down the right play eventually switched to a central area and now City did have finish number four. This was classy from Gündogan – a neat step right to create space, a waft of his boot, and Vaclik was beaten again.
Oberlin went close with a header but, really, this was a demoralising task for the home side to try and save some face in front of their supporters. The pattern continued: City could attack at will, moving through the Swiss with the hypnotic pass-and-move play that has become familiar under Guardiola.
Guardiola was allowed the luxury of taking off Sterling and De Bruyne – on 57 and 63 minutes – and it was the former’s replacement, Leroy Sané who created City’s next chance.
The winger slipped down the left and found Gündogan, who missed a chance for a hat-trick by hitting feebly at Vaclik. In the final analysis, it mattered little.
- Ilkay Gündogan: 14, Bernardo Silva: 18, Sergio Agüero: 23, Ilkay Gündogan: 53,
- Possessions: 30% | 70%
- Targets: 4-off/4-on | 2-off/6-on
- Champions League | St Jakob-Park
- Corners: 4 | 6
- Fouls 7 | 5
- Off sides 3 |2
- More on Bloomgist.com/tag/sports
A friendly handshake between managers Raphael Wicky and Pep Guardiola on the touchline … the swapping of pennants in the centre circle by captains Marek Suchy and Vincent Kompany … a blast of the whistle … and we’re off! The hosts get the game underway. The Champions League is back, and we’re at the business end of the tournament. The serious stuff begins now.
The teams are out! Basel are in their traditional RotBlau shirts, a striking combo said to have inspired Barcelona’s blaugrana clobber. Manchester City wear their famous sky-blue tops. There’s a wonderful atmosphere at St Jakob-Park, despite the freezing temperature. We’ll be off in a couple of minutes, once the Uefa-directed butchering of Zadok the Priest is out of the way.
Pep Guardiola speaks! “We have done well so far [in the Premier League and League Cup] but this is another competition and every game is tough because of the quality of the players and many, many, many other reasons. We are here with confidence to go through, but we know exactly what can happen if we are not at our level. Last season is last season: we played a really good team in Monaco, they reached the semis and won the league in France. We will try to get a good result!”
4- Raheem Sterling is City’s top scorer in the Champions League with four goals in five games.
1 – This is the first meeting between City and Basle in any competition.
2 – City are aiming to reach the last eight of the competition for only the second time in the club’s history.
Usual 4-2-3-1 formation for City, while Basle go 3-4-3. with Lang and Riveros playing as wing backs.
Good evening and welcome
The Champions League returns tonight. It’s last-16 time. I’ll be focusing on the first leg of Basle’s tie against Manchester City.
City are expected to progress and Pep Guardiola can play a full strength side given how far ahead his side are in the Premier League.
Kick-off is at 7.45pm but stay with me for all the pre-match build-up. Team news is expected at 6.45pm.
Mike Ikenwa is on the seat to take you through tonight’s live updates of one of the most hottest matches of this night
- Man City:
Team lineups will be available once announced.
- Tomas Vaclik
- Michael Lang
- Taulant Xhaka
- Leo Lacroix
- Marek Suchy
- Blas Riveros
- Mohamed Elyounoussi
- Fabian Frei
- Serey Die
- Valentin Stocker
- Dimitri Oberlin
- Mirko Salvi
- Luca Zuffi
- Ricky van Wolfswinkel
- Albian Ajeti
- Neftali Manzambi
- Raoul Petretta
- Kevin Bua
- de Moraes Ederson
- Kyle Walker
- Vincent Kompany
- Nicolas Otamendi
- Fabian Delph
- Kevin De Bruyne
- Luis Fernandinho
- Ilkay Gundogan
- Mota Bernardo Silva
- Sergio Aguero
- Raheem Sterling
- Claudio Bravo
- da Silva Danilo
- John Stones
- Aymeric Laporte
- Leroy Sane
- David Silva
- Phil Foden
Since breezing through the group stage, City’s quadruple chase has gathered pace.
Pep Guardiola’s side has pulled 16 points clear in the Premier League despite Gabriel Jesus sustaining a long-term knee injury on Dec. 31.
Sergio Aguero shouldered the burden as City’s only other senior striker, scoring 13 times in 10 games across the league and two domestic cups — including four at the weekend.
Basel also has a tighter domestic title chase, sitting in second place five points behind Young Boys, and is adapting following the sale of centre back Manuel Akanji to Borussia Dortmund in January.
Categories: Champions League