Manchester City contest the first leg of their first ever Champions League quarter-final this Wednesday, with Manuel Pellegrini’s (pictured) charges travelling to the French capital to take on Paris Saint-Germain (7.45pm, BT Sport Europe).
A resounding 4-0 victory over Bournemouth at the weekend kept City in fourth place in the Premier League, with their poor domestic form in recent weeks putting their spot in next season’s edition of Europe’s primary continental club competition at risk. That comprehensive win will have settled the nerves in the blue half of Manchester, though, with Pellegrini’s men now able to look forward to their trip to Paris on Wednesday without worrying about having been overtaken by rivals Manchester United in the top flight back home.
Having struggled to progress beyond the round of 16 for a number of years, City reached the last eight of the Champions League with a 3-1 aggregate triumph over Dynamo Kyiv last month. Whether they advance any further could define Pellegrini’s entire tenure at the Etihad Stadium. With Pep Guardiola set to replace the Chilean in the dugout ahead of next season, a run deep into the latter stages of Champions League would certainly salvage some pride in what has been a pretty underwhelming final campaign at the helm for Pellegrini. With the players they have in their squad, Man City may even fancy their chances of getting their hands on the trophy were they to make it through to the semi-finals.
PSG’s season also hinges on how well they do in this competition – the French outfit have already wrapped up another league title, meaning that their entire focus is now on their exploits in Europe –with Laurent Blanc’s side hoping to go one better having reached the quarter-finals in each of the last three years. A comfortable 4-2 aggregate win against Chelsea last time out shows that PSG, who squeezed past the same opponents in extra time in 2014/15 and lost to them in 2013/14, have improved over the last few campaigns.
The hosts will again have to make do without Marco Verratti, who has not played since picking up an injury in the 4-1 win over Stade Reims in late February. While his absence from the round of 16 win over Chelsea ultimately did not harm Blanc’s men, PSG often lack creativity and invention in the centre of the park when the Italy international is not present. That will be a slight concern ahead of the upcoming double-header with Man City, particularly as Angel Di Maria (shin) and Javier Pastore (calf) may also play no part in the first leg. Serge Aurier and Salvatore Sirigu are two others who will definitely not be involved this midweek, but Thiago Motta should recover from a knock in time to feature.
Pellegrini, meanwhile, will probably be unable to call upon the services of Joe Hart, Fabian Delph and Yaya Toure (all calf), with Raheem Sterling and Vincent Kompany both definitely sidelined. Kevin De Bruyne and Samir Nasir returned from lay-offs against Bournemouth on Saturday afternoon, though, with Bacary Sagna set to be restored to the starting XI after being rested in that clash at the Vitality Stadium. Jesus Navas is likely to keep his place on the right flank, with Fernandinho and Fernando set to anchor the midfield in a 4-2-3-1 formation if Toure is indeed absent.
While injuries to key PSG players could work in City’s favour, the Ligue 1 champions are rightly considered favourites to come out on top in the first leg on Wednesday. The odds on a 2-1 home victory look tempting, with a tight and closely-fought first 45 minutes to be expected at the Parc des Princes.