Guardiola reflects on 'tough' Champions League exit for Man City
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Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side have again impressed this season but could somehow finish the campaign trophyless after another heartbreaking Champions League exit. The dramatic extra-time defeat at Real Madrid means the Premier League is the only prize left on offer for the reigning champions.
City hold a slender one-point lead over rivals Liverpool with four matches’ remaining, while Jurgen Klopp’s side continue their relentless pursuit of an unprecedented quadruple. It is shaping up to be another thrilling Premier League title race to go to the wire between the sides, with Guardiola’s side previously holding their nerve in similar circumstances in the 2018/19 season.
City’s squad looks strong across the board, but the latest setback in their bid to lift the coveted Champions League trophy means many expect the club to be active again in the upcoming transfer window. Jack Grealish was brought in for £100m last summer, while the public pursuit of Harry Kane ended unsuccessfully.
Guardiola could be set to finally land a striker this time around though, with reports indicating the club are prepared to activate Erling Haaland’s release clause at Borussia Dortmund. The prolific 21-year-old has been linked with nearly all of Europe’s elite clubs, but the latest claims suggest City are set to beat out their rivals to his signature.
Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong is also said to have been identified as a priority target in this window, with Fernandinho confirming his departure. Xavi insists the Dutch international remains an important part of the La Liga giant’s present and future, but their financial woes has led to reports suggesting a deal worth £60 million could be available.
If City pull off deals for de Jong and Haaland this summer, how could they line-up next season? Express Sport has taken a look at how Guardiola’s side could be set out as they attempt to finally achieve their Champions League ambition.
The Brazil international’s place in City’s strongest eleven is not under question. Guardiola has entrusted Zack Steffen as his domestic cup goalkeeper, but the USA endured an afternoon to forget in the FA Cup semi-final defeat to Liverpool.
Ederson is already closing in on 200 appearances for the club, and the 28-year-old has a further four years on his contract at the Etihad. City have got their perfect number one for the foreseaable future.
Defence: Walker, Dias, Laporte, Cancelo
The wealth of attacking talent means City’s strength in defence is often overlooked. However, much like Ederson, there have been no real concerns from this season to suggest a change is needed.
Dias and Laporte have established a formidable partnership, while Cancelo has proven himself a reliable defender as well as a potent asset in the final third. Walker will celebrate his 32nd birthday later this month, but there is no sign of the England international slowing down anytime soon.
Midfield: De Jong, De Bruyne, Bernardo
City have an embarrassment of riches in this department, and would prove too strong for the majority of teams with any combination. De Jong would likely take Rodri’s place and provide the anchor to two free-roaming number eights.
Gundogan is a strong contender for a starting spot, although the German international is entering the final year of his deal. However, in Bernardo and De Bruyne, City boast two world-class performers capable of dictating any game.
Attack: Mahrez, Haaland, Foden
Haaland would immediately become an early favourite for the Golden Boot award, given the number of chances City create. Only Liverpool have outscored City in the Premier League this season, despite the frequent absence of a recognised striker.
Grealish and Sterling have had to settle for bench roles in recent weeks, due to the sustained form of Foden on the left flank. Mahrez can frustate at times, but the Algeria international often chips in with important goals like the one he scored at the Bernabeu.
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