What to do with Grealish?
Diego Simeone admitted after the first leg that Atletico were expecting Phil Foden to start in Madrid, and from the way they acted when Jack Grealish came on the pitch it looked as if they were trying to make up for lost time with the former Aston Villa captain . Grealish won five fouls for Manchester City in about 20 minutes on the pitch as the visitors tried every trick to wind him up — with some success as Pep Guardiola had to step in at one point.
Grealish could be a perfect decoy for City if he starts, with the potential for Atletico to get distracted with their plan for the England international compromising their overall strategy for the match. However, the 26-year-old didn’t exactly keep his cool when challenged and, having already suffered too many disciplinary issues this season in the competition, Guardiola will have to think hard about how he wants to use Grealish.
Yellow card tightropes
Gabriel Jesus came off the bench in the first leg and picked up a silly yellow card that rules him out of this match. Kyle Walker will presumably be welcomed back, despite having been very publicly reprimanded for the red card at RB Leipzig that sidelined him for three matches.
Read more: Man City training squad for Champions League game with Atletico
Guardiola also has decisions to make on Kevin De Bruyne and Joao Cancelo, who are both one booking away from missing the first leg of the semi-final. It was easy to leave them out of the second leg with Sporting when they were 5-0 up, but with so much riding on this game the manager may have to gamble on the discipline of two of his most important players.
In the debate about Atletico and their dark arts, there is nobody in the City squad better at neutralizing that and keeping control of the game than Fernandinho. The skipper spoke well as he took on press conference duties ahead of the game, and could be a useful presence off the bench if Guardiola feels he needs to stamp City’s authority on the final phase of the game.
Onus on Atletico
When the scores were level against Liverpool on Sunday, City defended by keeping the ball as much as they could and attacking. Atletico will not want to stray too far from their intensely defensive game but they cannot hide the fact that they are behind in this tie — if they do not score, they go out.
Previous form is also against Simeone’s men, given they are without a win in their past six home games in the competition (drawing four and losing two). Liverpool had to beat City at the weekend to take control of the title race and could not; as accustomed as they are to the latter stages of this competition, the pressure is on Atletico to do better.
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