Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 30 September 2020

Manchester City hoping one historic success can help them reach new heights against Lyon

City must improve their knockout record in the Champions League

Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne celebrates scoring the Champions League quarter-final winner against Paris Saint-Germain at the Etihad Stadium in April, 2016. Getty
Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne celebrates scoring the Champions League quarter-final winner against Paris Saint-Germain at the Etihad Stadium in April, 2016. Getty

Pep Guardiola has a tendency to contrast Manchester City’s Champions League history with those of Europe’s established order.

His former clubs Bayern Munich and Barcelona, who meet on Friday night, have ample experience of navigating their way through knockout ties, while City do not.

But their past should offer some solace. The only time they reached the Champions League semi-finals was via a victory over a French side delivered by a Kevin De Bruyne goal.

That 2016 quarter-final against Paris Saint-Germain feels pertinent as they face Lyon, even if the context has changed from other previous campaigns.

“It’s a unique situation but we feel that our team, the way that we play and our philosophy is going to stand us in good stead,” said City right-back Kyle Walker. “We just have to attack it as we attack every game.”

Unlike in 2017 and 2019, City cannot go out on away goals; not in a one-legged tie.

Liverpool’s elimination removed their 2018 conquerors. City themselves disposed of the club with the most glorious European pedigree of all, in Real Madrid, last week.

Another of the ancient regime were surprisingly ejected by a Lyon side who only finished seventh in the abbreviated Ligue 1 season. Afterwards, Juventus president Andrea Agnelli lamented: “We were eliminated from Europe by an opponent not very difficult to beat. When Lyon came out of the hat, none of us cried out of despair.”

Their tears instead came from defeat and City are less likely to succumb to complacency.

The former Monaco midfielder Bernardo Silva said: “I know Lyon very well having played for three years in Ligue 1. At Manchester City we faced them last season and it wasn't easy. We didn't manage to beat them in either of the two games.”

Lyon drew 2-2 in France after winning 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium and if the temptation is to say they were then weakened by last summer’s sales of Tanguy Ndombele, Nabil Fekir and Ferland Mendy, a potency has been added with Moussa Dembele and Memphis Depay.

“You need to be a very good team and very disciplined to beat Juventus over two legs,” Walker said.

The latter match was only Lyon’s second game since March and Walker added: “They have not really played much football so hopefully we can use that to our advantage.”

Lyon, City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan argued, are dangerous partly because “they have nothing to lose”.

They may be galvanised by a sense of injustice. Lyon threatened legal action after Ligue 1 was curtailed, meaning that, for the first time in 23 years, they have not qualified for Europe. Unless they win the Champions League.

City have different motivations. “If you had asked me when I signed I would have probably said that the Premier League was the big one for me having not won it before,” Walker said. “Now I have collected two of them and this is the one that I want. It would put the club on to that next pedestal.”

The Champions League also represents unfinished business for Gundogan. The midfielder scored in the 2013 final for Borussia Dortmund, but reflected: “I lost in the last minute. I still think about that season very often.”

Walker’s Champions League career is notable for other reasons. He kept a clean sheet in a brief cameo as a goalkeeper against Atalanta in November. He has not taken his goalkeeping gloves to Portugal.

“I have left them at home,” he said. “The ones that I took from Claudio [Bravo] at the San Siro are signed by Claudio and in my house.”

He hopes he will soon have a medal to accompany them.

Updated: August 14, 2020 08:13 AM

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