CHRIS SUTTON: Pep Guardiola MUST let Phil Foden off the leash

CHRIS SUTTON: Pep Guardiola MUST let Manchester City midfield star Phil Foden off the leash against Paris Saint-Germain in their Champions League semi-final second leg

  • City were much more influential in the second half of their first leg against PSG 
  • That is because their wingers cut inside and the full-backs could join in attacks
  • Guardiola must be positive, proactive and play City’s game to reach the final 

Manchester City were so much more influential after half-time last week and that was because of Pep Guardiola’s tactical tweaks. 

In the first half, City’s wingers, Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez, were so wide that they probably walked in with white chalk on their boots. This in turn saw the full backs, Joao Cancelo and Kyle Walker, sitting further back than usual, as protection in case of any Paris Saint-Germain counter-attacks.

It was overly cautious, and that isn’t a characteristic we’d associate with Guardiola. But it changed in the second half. Foden was moving inside more and Cancelo, later replaced by Oleksandr Zinchenko, was joining attacks. This helped City control the game more and they became better at winning the ball back, hunting in packs. 

Manchester City were much more positive in the second half vs Paris Saint-Germain last week

Wingers Phil Foden (above) and Riyad Mahrez cut inside more, causing more positive City play

Their possession rose from 53 per cent in the first half to 61 in the second half, and they secured a very good 2-1 win at the Parc des Princes.

It will be interesting to see what Guardiola tells his full backs to do tonight. Rather than have them sit in case Kylian Mbappe gets a chance to stretch his legs, I’d say City should concentrate on playing their game, first and foremost. That is what will win them their first Champions League title. 

With the players City have, this isn’t a team that should be going into its shell. They can handle themselves and play with confidence. Tell Cancelo not to be afraid to fly forward — just make sure he knows when the time is right. 

Really, it’s up to PSG to make the moves if they want to get back into this tie. 

More often than not, opponents who try to push up on City and throw bodies forward come a cropper. They run a massive risk of leaving spaces which we know City are more than capable of exploiting. 

One concern for Guardiola is how PSG have saved some of their best performances for away from the Parc des Princes. They won 3-1 at Manchester United, 4-1 at Barcelona and 3-2 at Bayern Munich.

City won their European semi-final first leg 2-1 after a free-kick from Riyad Mahrez (left, 26)

Despite leading the tie, Pep Guardiola’s side need to be positive in order to reach the final

So City are going to have to be at their best to reach their first Champions League final. Neymar was good at finding space between the lines last week, which will worry Guardiola ahead of tonight. 

When the Brazilian gets the ball, his first thought is to release Mbappe. I’m sure City’s army of coaching staff will have been studying last week’s footage and producing a specific plan to prevent Neymar from having a match-winning influence at No 10. 

It will be a fascinating watch for us neutrals but I expect City to have too much for PSG, if they play their game. 




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