Manchester City face off against French side Lyon in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals on Saturday night. City famously lost to the same opponents in last season’s group stage, but this Lyon is far different and, under Rudi Garcia, they present a much different task for Manchester City.
Manchester City Better Be Wary of Lyon
Lyon Can Beat Manchester City
The differences between this Lyon side and the one that beat Manchester City could not be starker. Both sides are going to be sitting back and playing on the counter, but the names involved and style of that counter will be completely different.
Against Juventus in the last round, Lyon sat deep with three centre-backs and used Juventus’ slow play and lack of creativity to their advantage. Bruno Guimaraes, Houssem Aouar and Maxence Caqueret had the job of keeping Juventus in front of them and, for the most part, they did that – a tactic which forced the Italians into bad or low percentage shots. They had 15 shots and only four on target.
When they played Manchester City at the Etihad, they played a much simpler 4-4-2 formation. They had stern banks and got starring performances from three players that have since departed; Nabil Fekir, Tanguy Ndombele, and Pape Cheikh Diop. Ndombele’s performance in Manchester was particularly impressive covering all that ground while putting on a nice passing display.
However, this game should be much more similar to Lyon’s game against Juventus. One of the biggest changes at Lyon since Rudi Garcia took over has been Maxwel Cornet’s position. The Ivory Coast international had been deployed as a winger for his entire career, but under Garcia, he has been reborn as a full-back.
He has good instincts at the position but this has been a risk by Garcia. In Lyon’s two games since returning from the Coronavirus break, Cornet has looked quite promising at wing-back. Garcia has given him the protection of a back-three which allowed him to shine going forward without as much responsibility on the back end.
Against Manchester City
But Garcia should be wary of using that tactic against Manchester City. Unlike Juventus, City can target and exploit that position. This might be a prime game to start Riyad Mahrez. The Algerian is excellent and exploiting space, whether finding it for himself or creating overlaps for others.
Against an inexperienced wing-back like Cornet, there will naturally be space all over the place. To Lyon’s credit, they will at least have a strong centre-back next to Cornet. Fernando Marcal is a solid defender who has played at left-back plenty of times in his career as well. He will be able to cover some of the space that Cornet’s inexperience leaves open.
But Mahrez will give them both fits in ways Manchester City’s other wingers will not. Mahrez can use his skill to bring both Marcal and Cornet close to him opening up a gaping hole for Kyle Walker to exploit on the overlap. That in itself could create a host of chances for City – ones which make fans wish Sergio Aguero wasn’t still recovering from knee surgery.
This only heightens the importance that Gabriel Jesus plays well. The Brazilian did his job against Real Madrid to perfection. He handled his work in the early parts of the game and got rewarded with opportunities to score in the latter stages. But this will be a different animal.
Gabriel Jesus’ Struggles
Manchester City have struggled in games like this one, and Jesus has been a real catalyst in those struggles. Two of City’s three losses since the restart were games where they missed lots of chances. While Jesus wasn’t the only one missing them, he racked up plenty.
He’s always been hit or miss with his chances taken, but Manchester City should be wary of him putting in a poor performance. They’re going to need him to put his chances away early. The longer this game goes before City score, the more tense and uncomfortable the situation will become.
That doesn’t mean they won’t be able to make it into the semi-final. Some might argue that the one-off format could come back to haunt City, especially if they aren’t clinical in their finishing. After that Real Madrid game though, it would be surprising to see City hang three on Lyon in a hurry.