Manchester City’s disappointing December may have cost them a shot at the Premier League title but they have bounced back in 2017. They’ve won four out of five in the top flight, dropping points only against title rivals Tottenham Hotspur and will return to European action in solid shape. They won only two of their Champions League Group games but one of those was a memorable victory over Barcelona and they qualified for the last sixteen comfortably.
Monaco have been enjoying an excellent campaign so far, propelled by some high scoring performances. They’ve scored four goals or more on nine occasions already this season and went top of Ligue 1 in the middle of January courtesy of a 4-1 thrashing of Marseille. Their European exploits have been less spectacular, but they topped a tricky section that included Tottenham, Bayer Leverkusen and CSKA Moscow to reach the knock-out stages.
Ilkay Gundogan remains a long-term absentee, but otherwise, Manchester City’s squad is healthy. The biggest dilemma for coach Pep Guardiola is whether to rest Sergio Aguero. The Argentine has been the spearhead for most of City’s attacking moves this season, but the arrival of Gabriel Jesus has given Guardiola another option, and he may be tempted to start Aguero on the bench, as he did in a recent Premier League game against Swansea.
Monaco may be without Moroccan winger Nabil Dirar who is out with a rib injury and forward Guido Cartillo, who is recovering from an adductor strain. Versatile defender Andrea Raggi was reported to be suffering from an infection but is likely to be fit in time for this game.
This will be the first meeting between Monaco and Manchester City. The French side boasts a good record against English teams, winning eight and drawing four of their sixteen fixtures. Most recently, they knocked Arsenal out of the Champions League at this stage in 2015 and secured a brace of 2-1 victories over Tottenham in the group stage of this year’s tournament.
For their part, Manchester City have a good record against French teams. They drew with Paris Saint-Germain in the 2008-09 UEFA Cup and knocked the capital city side out of this competition at the quarter-final stage last year.
City will start as strong favourites, but this has all the hallmarks of an upset. While Monaco have been in free-scoring form this season, thanks to the strike duo of Falcao and Valere Germain, they are tight defensively and well-organised in midfield. In European competition, they adopt a counter-attacking strategy and it was these tactics that enabled them to overcome Arsenal two years ago and upset Tottenham at White Hart Lane last year.
It is worth noting that City have only kept one clean sheet at the Etihad Stadium since the middle of September. They can be vulnerable at the back and the visitors will be confident of catching Guardiola’s side out on the break.