Manchester City, once called the ‘noisy neighbours’ by Manchester United have shown all intent and purposes to be a leading European club with their latest victory on Tuesday night against Basel.
The oil-rich backed club have invested deeply in recruiting top and excellent players from across the globe to help break the status quo led by Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and a few other top clubs.
Leading the charge is Pep Guardiola who has shown over and over again he has the strength, tenacity, will and intelligence to tread where even angels would ‘fear’ to tread. Even the ‘Special One’ has not been able to achieve what Guardiola has within two years.
In his first season, he made errors as well as good judgements in the recruitment of players. He sold/loaned out players like Joe Hart, Mangala amongst others to bring in exquisite players that will fit in perfectly into his kind of football philosophy.
This he achieved this season so well that the club leads the Premier League table by 16 points.
At the beginning of February, Guardiola was lamenting City’s injury list and he only named six substitutes for the 1-1 draw at Burnley.
But his bench in Basel showed that the injury crisis is nearing an end as both Leroy Sane and David Silva were named as substitutes.
With the game won, Guardiola was able to give valuable game time to that pair and rest his other stars.
Sane, who had initially been ruled out for six weeks with an ankle injury sustained in City’s FA Cup win over Cardiff on 28 January, came on for Sterling, while Silva made his return from a hip injury as a 62nd-minute replacement for De Bruyne.
In defence, Fabian Delph returned to left-back after missing the last six games with a knee injury, while captain Vincent Kompany played his first Champions League game since May 2016.
This strength in depth will be crucial as the Premier League leaders continue to chase a historic quadruple. This is very achievable.
Yesterday game saw City enjoying 74% possession against the reigning Swiss Super League champions and they made an incredible 868 passes in the game, compared to Basel’s 294.
The visitors were relentless in attack and the scoreline reflected an imperious performance by Guardiola’s side.
But Basel were able to get at the heart of the City defence on a number of occasions.
It was the home side who threatened first with striker Dimitri Oberlin squandering an excellent chance on a counter-attack with only the onrushing keeper Ederson to beat.
Valentin Stocker saw his shot blocked when also through against Ederson, while the Brazilian keeper had to make a finger-tip stop to deny Mohamed Elyounoussi from long range.
The chances kept coming for Oberlin in the second half as he missed a close-range header and saw a free-kick saved by Ederson.