Manchester City vs Lyon: Champions League Preview and Prediction
Manchester City will play Lyon in a one-legged Champions League quarter-finals in Portugal, with Pep and co. already regarded as the favorites to go through.
Since taking over at the Etihad in 2016, Guardiola has won the Premier League and the League Cup twice as well as an FA Cup. He is still criticized, however, for not winning Europe's premier competition with the Cityzens.
City faced Lyon twice in the 2018-19 season group stage of the Champions League, losing 2-1 at Etihad and drawing in Lyon. This will be the third meeting between the two sides and the most important.
City booked their place in the quarter-finals by knocking the 13-time Real Madrid. City won 2-1 in the first-leg at the Santiago Bernabeu in February, before recording the same scoreline in Manchester to go through 4-2 on aggregate.
Guardiola’s Manchester City finished second in the Premier League, 18 points behind the champions Liverpool. City won the EFL Cup against Aston Villa this season but were knocked out of the FA Cup by Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal who went on to win the FA Cup trophy.
Lyon finished seventh in Ligue 1 as the season was ended prematurely due to the suspension of all major sporting events in France during the early stages of lockdown.
In Europe though, it has been a different story. Lyon will be against the Cityzens after going through the Round of 16 due to a controversial away goal, knocking out Juventus, who won the Serie A this season.
This may have come as a relief to Guardiola as they are not going to play a highly physical side like Juventus. Lyon should not be taken lightly too but they will definitely be an easier opponent than Juventus.
For Lyon, Memphis Depay’s return in the Champions League was crucial in lifting the team’s momentum and they must be the better-relieved side out of the two as they only have to decide their fate in the Champions League on the basis of their performance in 90 minutes rather than 180. This increases the chance of unusual stuff happening and 90 minutes of good football will be enough to get you into the semi-finals of the Champions League.
Manchester City have won five out of their last six games in all competitions, with their only loss coming against the Gunners in the semi-finals of the FA Cup. On the other hand, Lyon have won three, lost two and drawn one in their last six games in all competitions.
Sergio Aguero has been included in City’s squad for the final stages of the competition but the Argentine striker is still in the recovery phase after a successful surgery. He is very unlikely to feature in the game and is even reported to be missing the remainder of the European campaign.
Benjamin Mendy also missed the game against Real Madrid but will now be available after serving his suspension.
For Lyon, ex-City defender Jason Denayer recently picked up a groin injury, while Maxwel Cornet has also sustained a thigh injury. The pair was still seen training with the squad and thus, they may still be a part of Rudi Garcia’s plans.
Kevin de Bruyne vs Houssem Aouar
The competition is getting better and better as we go further in the knockout stages of the Champions League.
Kevin De Bruyne has had one of the best seasons of his career and he has seemed unstoppable at times. Be it equaling Thierry Henry's record for most assists in a single league season or scoring goals, the Belgian has certainly been at a different level this season.
However, his opponent for this week's head-to-head, Houssem Aouar has been pretty decent too. When the Champions League stats are compared, de Bruyne has one goal and two assists in six games while Aouar has one goal and three assists.
Both players, despite having different roles in their teams, have very similar numbers.
De Bruyne will be looking to step up in this game as City are bound to have more possession in this game. He also has better attacking options to link up with, but the result being decided in only 90 minutes will make it difficult for both the players to get something out of the game by themselves.
As things stand, de Bruyne is primed to emerge out as the winner between the two but one cannot count out Aouar.
Aymeric Laporte vs Memphis Depay
Memphis Depay's injury was a huge blow to Lyon in the middle of the season and that's the point from where their graph went low.
Depay is a vital cog for Les Gones and it's not only the goals that speak for him but also his playmaking abilities. His calm attitude, smart passing and robust physicality have helped Lyon do a lot of damage in the big games.
The Dutchman has scored nine and assisted two in Ligue 1 before it was suspended. His presence is also a very big reason that Lyon are in the quarter-finals of the Champions League as he has fired six goals in the Champions League this season and he will definitely look to score more.
Aymeric Laporte is another player whose only downfall about the 2019-20 season was a long-term injury.
Laporte was the commanding center-back of Pep's Manchester City but since his return from injury, he has struggled a bit. His tackling and aggression have been impacted as he may fear another injury but these things often put up the wrong impression for a defender.
Depay would look to remain fit for the future stages of the tournament if Lyon progress while Laporte is expected to save himself from injuries too. Thus, the battle may not be a very physical one but it will most probably be a battle of strong football minds.
The Dutchman will enter the game with an additional pressure knowing that he may not get many chances to score and this will help Laporte is he manages to keep his cool and doesn't let Depay steal one seeing some of City's surprising shockers at the backline this season.
Manchester City have been under scrutiny because of their failures in the Champions League in the past and have played more safely this season.
The game against Lyon will be a tricky one but unlike Juventus, Guardiola will make good use of all the quality he has in his team as compared to Lyon. Defense has been the only concern for Guardiola but they are good enough to probably hold Depay, who is the only big threat for them on paper.
On the contrary, Lyon will try to stay in the game as long as they can and they are most likely to play a counter-attacking game as it will be their best chance to catch City off guard.
Prediction: Manchester City 2-1 Lyon