Manchester City got off to a good start with 1-0 over Atlético Madrid in the first of two Champions League quarter-finals on Tuesday night.
But the return leg could have ended without a few of the Englishmen’s profiles; Jack Grealish and manager Josep Guardiola.
For with almost ten minutes left, the former was pushed over right in front of his boss out at the sideline, before Argentine Ángel Correa toned the ball a second later, so that it hit the Englishman on the body and probably also cut his head.
Grealish hurt, of course, even though it now looked just too exaggerated. And Guardiola, who had been the closest spectator, flew in the face of Correa and according to English media shouted ‘you’re mad’ – you are crazy.
Soon everyone was boxing a little to each other before Grealish himself got to his feet and struck out after Correa.
It all ended thankfully peacefully with a yellow card to Correa. But Guardiola acknowledged after the match that it may very well turn into similar scenes in the return match next week in Madrid.
– We must control our emotions and do what we come for. There will also be a judge there. Atletico are experts in the knockout phase, which they have tried many times, and it will be a good test for us, he said.
At one point, however, the return leg must be different: Atletico’s playing time.
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It was very defensive in Manchester and it frustrated the match’s lone goal scorer, Kevin De Bruyne.
– It’s very hard. They played with five in defense and five in midfield. I recommend anyone who has anything to say about us that they try to play against it for training.
– We must keep focus in the return settlement and not let ourselves be lured by them. That’s the way they play. 1-0 is 1-0. I expect the same in Madrid. But if the match is close, they will have to attack us a little more, said the Belgian.
‘Match statistics speak for themselves’
Now it’s hard to blame an away team at the Etihad Stadium for not blowing forward across the pitch with their heads under their arms. The way City play, it ends with a violent slap. Especially if De Bruyne is on the field as well.
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But Atletico did not produce a single finish on goal (City had 15), even though they had the stars João Felix and Antoine Griezmann from the start at the top.
Head coach Diego Simeone has if anyone the experience on his side. And the Argentine is not known as a man who changes formation or deviates from a solid, defensive starting point just because the media, fans and other wise minds think so.
– We met an extraordinary opponent. The statistics of the match speak for themselves. They are very dynamic. We will continue in the tournament with the tools we have available. We defended really well, a huge, collective effort. However, we could have managed our counterattack a little better, he admitted.
And maybe Atletico will be about as defensive from the start when the return match kicks off next week, if you have to believe goalkeeper Jan Oblak.
– You do not have to play crazy. It’s a long battle. One has to be ice cold and take the chances that arise along the way. And there will chances arise, the Slovenian goalkeeper said and must have forgotten that was not the case this Tuesday night.
Simeone added that Atletico will probably go after having the ball a little more than the 33 percent it was at the Etihad.
– We have to see if we can create a little more and annoy the opponents. But it only happens if we keep calm and focus on team effort.
There is a return match at Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid on Wednesday.