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Pep’s false nine and Foden form – 5 reasons Man City can win Champions League

By May 5, 2021No Comments

Manchester City have reached the Champions League final for the first time after beating French champions Paris St Germain 4-1 on aggregate.

Pep Guardiola’s side were eliminated from European football’s showpiece event at the quarter-final stage in each of the previous three seasons.

Here, the PA news agency looks at five reasons why City are now ready to lift the trophy.

Pep prep bang on

Pep’s false nine and Foden form – 5 reasons Man City can win Champions League PLZ Soccer
Pep Guardiola has lost in three Champions League quarter-finals with City (John Walton/PA)

Guardiola, who won the Champions League twice as Barcelona manager, has finally got it right at City. He has been accused of over-analysing in the Champions League knockout stages, but his squad rotation and tactics this time have been spot on. He has switched his line-up in other competitions, but his European formula has been consistent. Nine players have started all four games against Borussia Dortmund and PSG in the last two rounds. He has brilliantly overcome the absence of an out-and-out goal scorer due to Sergio Aguero’s fitness problems, operating with a ‘false nine’ comprising of any number of players who can pop up there during any one game.

No doubt about Dias

The signing of Ruben Dias for around £65million in September has given City the solid platform they have lacked since the departure of Vincent Kompany in 2019. Dias has transformed Guardiola’s side; a brilliant man-mountain of a defender, assured in possession and in his distribution and he is also a leader. The 23-year-old Portuguese’s commanding presence has instilled confidence throughout the team, while England’s John Stones, alongside him at the heart of defence, has responded by raising his game. It is a winning partnership that can snuff out the threat of Europe’s best strikers.

Foden thrives on big stage

Pep’s false nine and Foden form – 5 reasons Man City can win Champions League PLZ Soccer
Phil Foden, centre, has produced his best on the big stage (Julien Poupert/PA)

Former England defender Rio Ferdinand described Phil Foden as the best young player in the world after watching his display against PSG in Tuesday’s second leg. Foden, who will be 21 the day before the Champions League final in Istanbul on May 29, has flourished under Guardiola’s guidance and is delivering on a consistent basis. His potential was never in doubt, but the Stockport-born midfielder is regularly providing an end product and proving he is unfazed when it matters in the big games.

City unity is key

Half a dozen other players have showcased their world-class talent during City’s run to the final. Kevin De Bruyne continues to be a major influence and Ilkay Gundogan has thrived with greater attacking licence, while Riyad Mahrez, Bernardo Silva, Joao Cancelo, Kyle Walker and goalkeeper Ederson have all made telling contributions. But City have operated as a cohesive team. Guardiola’s side showed against Neymar and PSG’s other renowned individual talents that the sum is greater than their parts and this unity will be a decisive factor in the final at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium.

Ederson’s eye for a pass

Pep’s false nine and Foden form – 5 reasons Man City can win Champions League PLZ Soccer
City goalkeeper Ederson gives his side an extra edge (Peter Powell/PA)

Ederson enhanced his reputation as the goalkeeper with the best distribution in the world in the second leg against PSG when his inch-perfect 70-yard pass over the top to Oleksandr Zinchenko helped set up Mahrez’s opening goal. The 27-year-old gives City an extra dimension. Press them too high and you leave yourself open to their goalkeeper’s pin-point direct approach. He is key to Guardiola’s philosophy of playing out from the back, but it must also be remembered, the Brazilian is on his way to winning back-to-back Golden Gloves in the Premier League.