Man City defeated PSG 1-0 in the second leg (3-2 in aggregate) and reached the semi-final stage of the UEFA Champions League for the first time in their history. It was a monumental achievement, and one they achieved with a compactness in defence which has deserted them for most of this season.
hey were, in no small way, helped by PSG's tactical mistakes on the night, along with injuries and suspensions. By the time the night ended, all of the three first choice midfielders of the French club were missing from the pitch, and Man City took full advantage of it.
How they lined up
With the league title out of reach, Manuel Pellegrini opted to leave out Bacary Sagna, Gael Clichy, Fernandinho, Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva out of the starting lineup during their clash against West Brom at the weekend. These players returned to the lineup against PSG with Pellegrini shifting back to his 4-2-3-1, after opting for a 4-4-2 against the Baggies.
Laurent Blanc, on the other hand, rested eight of his players during the 0-2 win against Guingamp. The Frenchman reinstated the stars for this game against Man City, although he was missing a few through injuries and suspension. Both Blaise Matuidi and David Luiz missed the second leg after picking up a yellow card each in the first. With Marco Verratti also missing the game due to an injury, Blanc made a tactical change for this game. He switched to a 3-5-2 formation, with Aurier, Thiago Silva and Marquinhos forming the back-three.
PSG dominated possession but not the match
Not many teams come to the Etihad and dominate 62.9% of the possession in
With City outnumbering PSG on the wings, the French club lost two attacking outlets in the game, while the likes of Di Maria and Rabiot failed to carve out openings through the middle. Moreover, with Matuidi, who proved to be a big threat in attack in the first leg with his forward runs from midfield, missing the game, PSG didn't have enough impetus at the center of the park to rattle the Man City midfielders. This led to very slow build-up plays from PSG, and they hardly tested Hart on the night – apart from a couple of free-kicks by Zlatan.
Aurier's night of misery
Serge Aurier is a lot of things – athletic, pacy, outspoken – but he is not a center back. The 23-year-old fullback was asked to play on the right side of a three-man defence by Blanc, and he had a night to forget. Playing out of his natural position, the Ivorian made a host of mistakes, and he was lucky that City
He gave the ball away constantly and two of them turned into goal-scoring opportunities for City. In the 28th minute, Aurier turned over the possession at the back, and Sergio Aguero won a penalty. The Argentine, like Zlatan in the first leg, failed to convert from the spot and PSG were let off the hook. Few minutes later, he misplaced a pass to Navas at the edge of the PSG box, and the winger came dangerously close to scoring.
Defensively he was caught out of position time and again, with Aguero and Silva looking to exploit his presence in the back-three.
Motta's injury and more PSG players playing out of position
Thiago Motta limped off in the 44th minute holding his hamstring and Blanc was forced to make a tactical change. Lucas Moura came on for the Italian international, and PSG switched to a more conventional 4-4-2. Moura, who scored a couple of goals at the weekend, shifted to the right
However, with a central midfielder short on the pitch, Blanc moved Marquinhos out of the defence and placed him alongside Rabiot in the midfield. This is possibly the worst midfield combination PSG can come up with, with a fully-fit squad. To make matters worse, Aurier was now partnering Thiago Silva at the center of the four-man defence.
Although Blanc's option was limited, but when you are forced to compromise in a match, it is better to do so in the wide areas, rather than in the middle. A team can survive with weak wingers or fullbacks, but not with a weak central midfield and central defensive pairing.
Eventually, in the 61st
De Bruyne exploits the space which was left vacant by Motta
Motta is not only the most experienced PSG midfielder, but he is also their most important one defensively. The Italian shields the
Swansea vs Liverpool - who will hold higher possession?
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