Man City advance to tougher tests in the Champions League last-eight

Man City advance to tougher tests in the Champions League last-eight
From ESPN - March 7, 2018

MANCHESTER, England -- Three points from Manchester City's 2-1 loss to Basel that still easily sees them through to the quarterfinals of the Champions League 5-2 on aggregate.

1. Man City on to harder tests

Pep Guardiola suffered just his second career defeat at the Etihad Stadium, and first of this season, although his Manchester City side still comfortably reached the quarterfinals of the Champions League. Such has been City's dominance in the Premier League and group stage of the Champions League that every loss is a surprise although this was hardly as seismic as the shock FA Cup defeat to League One side Wigan Athletic.

The hard work was done three weeks ago in Switzerland with a swaggering and stylish 4-0 victory that made the second leg at the Etihad Stadium a virtual irrelevance. It's only the second time that the club has ever reached the last-eight of the competition. Guardiola, on the other hand, has only missed out on the semifinals once as a coach, that coming in his first year at City. His team have been named as one of the favourites for the tournament, but the City boss is aware that Barcelona, Bayern Munich and even an out-of-form Real Madrid have more European savviness than City.

Not that it should have mattered against the Swiss champions. Guardiola spoke about the dangers of taking Basel for granted before the game but his lineup reflected the reality of the situation with seven starters 23 or younger. He allowed David Silva to return to Spain while Ederson, Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero and Nicolas Otamendi were left on the bench in case of a calamity.

Turning the tie around was never likely to happen and Gabriel Jesus appeared to kill off all hope after just eight minutes when he tapped in Bernardo Silva's cross at the far post.

But Basel did at least show some of the quality that saw them shock Premier League rivals Manchester United with a 1-0 win in the group stage. Mohamed Elyounoussi drilled in a 17th-minute leveller and they took the lead with 20 minutes remaining when Michael Lang fired past Bravo at his near post to exit the tournament with an impressive victory.

Now Guardiola and company will turn their attention to the quarterfinals, where sterner tests will surely await once the last-eight is set.

2. Gabriel back in business

Such has been the form of Aguero that Jesus's absence from the City squad has been hardly felt in 2018. The Brazil international has not started any of City's last 15 matches after straining his ligaments in the New Year's Eve draw at Crystal Palace when he left the pitch in tears. Thankfully that injury was not as serious as the 20-year-old feared, particularly with the World Cup in the summer.

Indeed, the forced three-month hiatus could be a huge benefit for the national team as well as City as they enter the final months of the season aiming to rubber-stamp their Premier League success and push for European glory.


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