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What Could We Have Possibly Learned From Man City vs. Monaco?

Waking up this morning to work out any takeaways from the first leg of Manchester City’s clash with Monaco is like piecing together a night of heavy drinking. It was a night of degeneracy — mistakes were made, people were throwing themselves headfirst at objects and someone pulled out their Willy (Caballero).

As we move toward the second leg at the Stade Louis II in Monaco on March 15, the most obvious talking point will be City’s defense of their two-goal advantage. So what’s Pep Guardiola’s plan?

“We are going to fly to Monaco to score as many goals as possible. We are not going to defend that result,” Guardiola said. “We have to score goals. If we don’t score a goal in Monaco we will be eliminated.” 

Here we go again. Guardiola is loving this. After spending seven months battling the the militant defenses of Middlesbrough and Burnley, this a love-in of interchangeable attackers.  

The good news for City is that they have that two-goal head start. Goalkeeper Willy Caballero is somewhat to thank for that. While his errant pass eventually led to Radamel Falcoa’s first goal (although his defense did very little to bail him out), his first huge stop on Falcao from the spot in the 50th minute probably kept Manchester City alive in the tie. 

After that huge momentum shift, Caballero produced another great save on Falcao in the 84th minute to maintain a bit of breathing room. Caballero doesn’t provide the narrative strength of Claudio Bravo or the discarded Joe Hart, but he’s going to be key in the second leg.

That's because John Stones still hasn’t learned to defend, Nicolas Otamendi is a walking liability and Yaya Toure sure as hell isn’t going to shield the two effectively. What transpired for City was basically just like watching an Orlando City intrasquad scrimmage.   

At least City fans can rest assured that Guardiola won’t opt for Fernandinho at left back again.


If City’s front three of Aguero, Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling play as well as they did in the first leg, City will claim the goals that Guardiola desires. But this could play out like a battle from ancient history, both sides rushing straight at each other after kick off.

Coming at them is a side whose attacking intent is as good, if not better, than promised. Falcao is back to his best, but it’s likely that we’ll be looking back at this Monaco side years from now, after it’s young talent is broken apart by other clubs, amazed at how one side, for a brief period, fielded them all.

Eighteen-year-old Kylian Mbappe is the kind of player that, if English, would be heralded as the next savior. 22-year-old Bernardo Silva and 21-year-old Thomas Lemar are a nightmarish duo on the wings and even Fabinho offers a threat from defensive midfield. Valere Germain and Guido Carrillo, players that have combined for 15 Ligue 1 goals this season, had to make due with starting on the bench in Manchester.

The good news for City is that Monaco’s 18,523-seat Stade Louis-II is no fortress. In 2014-15, Monaco were beaten 2-0 at home by Arsenal in the round of 16 but advanced on away goals. In the quarterfinals, they failed to score at home against Juventus and were knocked out.

In 2015-16, they needed to reverse a 3-1 deficit against Valencia to qualify for the group stage, but a crowd of 13,165 watched Alvaro Negredo score an early goal for the Spanish side and they crashed out.

We might not see another eight goals, but a can’t-miss second leg is a sure bet.

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