Manchester City head to the French capital on Wednesday and face Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarterfinal.
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City have never reached the last eight of the UCL and Manuel Pellegrini‘s side are flying the flag for the Premier League.
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Here’s a look at three key battles which could determine the outcome of the first leg at the Parc des Princes.
Kevin de Bruyne vs. Marquinhos
KDB returned from injury last weekend and looked like he’d never been away. Having the Belgian flyer back is a big boost for City and his incisive running inside from the left flank will give the usually marauding right back Marquinhos a tough time. The Brazilian loves to get forward but De Bruyne may not allow him. He’s still not fully fit, but my word have City missed him. De Bruyne has the ability to end this tie in the first 60 minutes — likely how long he’ll last — if he wants to. Laurent Blanc may go for a more defensive option than Marquinhos at right back to offset the threat of De Bruyne. Yeah. He’s that good.
Eliaquim Mangala vs. Zlatan Ibrahimovic
With Kompany still out injured, it will be down to Eliaquim Mangala and Nicolas Otamendi to keep Zlatan quiet. That’s no mean feat but Mangala, a born and bred Parisian, has the power and pace to deal with Zlatan. The 25-year-old central defender who arrived from FC Porto last summer for a whopping $60 million has looked better in European games than he has in the PL. They will hope that trend continues. Mangala insists he is not scared of coming up against Zlatan but the 34-year-old is a daunting figure to mark. Zlatan will use all his nous to get at Mangala early but he certainly has the pace and aerial ability to go toe-to-toe with Zlatan. The only worry here is that he’s outsmarted. As he proved in dumping Chelsea out in the last round, he’s a clever cat that Zlatan…
David Silva vs. Thiago Motta
Motta was an absolute machine against Chelsea in PSG’s Round of 16 game and once again the Italian international holding midfielder will have to be at this best to stop “Dav the Wizard.” Silva is the creative hub of City but so many times he’s blown hot and cold this season. The Spaniard slides into promising positions in his sleep and if he can link up with Sergio Aguero and De Bruyne like he did for City’s second goal last weekend at Bournemouth, then Motta is in for a tough night. Precision vs. power. Skill vs. strength. Silva vs. Motta could be the key matchup in the heart of the pitch.