MILAN — Manchester Metropolis produced a chaotic second-half show in a well-known previous stadium on Wednesday. They can not afford one other on Sunday.
A visit to the San Siro is often the spotlight of any European marketing campaign, however beforehand, this one was diminished to a glorified warm-up with Anfield and Liverpool to come back in 4 days’ time. That, although, was earlier than Atalanta jolted Metropolis throughout a cavalier second 45 minutes, Gabriel Jesus missed a VAR-awarded penalty, Ederson was substituted at half-time, Claudio Bravo was despatched off and Kyle Walker ended the evening in aim.
The naked information are that the sport ended 1-1 and Metropolis must wait to qualify for the knockout rounds. Pep Guardiola, although, had mentioned one of the simplest ways to prepare for Liverpool was with a elegant show right here and, within the second half a minimum of, it was removed from it.
The sight of Kevin De Bruyne arrowing the ball out of play with Joao Cancelo in acres of house summed up a second-half efficiency that lacked the same old swagger and spark.
“Within the second half we suffered rather a lot,” Guardiola admitted afterwards.
Regardless of beginning the evening with a five-point lead on the prime of Champions League Group C, he caught to his phrase and picked a robust workforce. Ederson, Fernandinho, Ilkay Gundogan, Bernardo Silva, Raheem Sterling and De Bruyne have been all requested to start out towards a workforce who have been demolished 5-1 on the Etihad Stadium simply two weeks in the past.
With Aymeric Laporte, Leroy Sane, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Rodri injured, and Phil Foden suspended, Guardiola might argue he had nobody else, however there was nonetheless a component of threat given the dimensions of the sport they face subsequent. If Ederson, pressured off at half-time, is just not accessible at Anfield, the gamble is not going to have paid off: Bravo, despatched off for bringing down Josip Ilicic 9 minutes from time, has not began a league sport since Could 2018.
Walker, for his half, saved a clear sheet and was serenaded by the visiting followers on the finish with chants of “England’s No. 1.” The proper-back has often taken half in goalkeeping classes on the Metropolis Soccer Academy.
The end result ought to by no means have been doubtful past the seventh minute.
Manchester Metropolis have been largely disjointed in a 1-1 draw at Atalanta. Giuseppe Maffia/NurPhoto through Getty Photos
Atalanta midfielder Remo Freuler joked in his prematch information convention that Metropolis are so good they will thread passes “via your earhole,” and whereas Bernardo’s wasn’t fairly that correct, it nonetheless carved open the house defence for Jesus to flick into Sterling’s path. Sterling does not usually miss today, and the Metropolis followers excessive up behind Ederson’s aim have been already celebrating earlier than the ball was casually ushered into the nook with a swing of the winger’s proper boot. That is 18 in 20 video games for membership and nation this season, and 5 already within the Champions League.
The Italians can be sick of the sight of him after his hat trick in Manchester.
Talking earlier than the sport, Guardiola mentioned he felt his groups have an obligation to entertain. Sterling was on the coronary heart of that right here within the first half — as he has been for a lot of the previous 18 months — however it will likely be attention-grabbing to see if Guardiola takes the identical method towards Liverpool.
Metropolis haven’t gained at Anfield for 16 years, and final season’s assembly on Merseyside changed into a cautious Zero-Zero draw. Guardiola has already insisted Metropolis would not have to win on Sunday in the event that they need to win a 3rd straight title however he can not afford to lose.
Liverpool haven’t misplaced a league match since they have been crushed on the Etihad in January, and a nine-point lead for Jurgen Klopp’s facet can be a big benefit, even when it is just November.
A Metropolis workforce despatched out to assault on Sunday will create possibilities, however it’s the different finish of the pitch that may give Guardiola a headache. Fernandinho has barely put a foot improper since being pressed into motion at centre-back, however a entrance three of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah — bursting with tempo and filled with power — presents a really particular problem.
Fernandinho has the tactical intelligence to know, as a rule, the place to be, however even that’s little assist when three pink shirts are working at you full pelt. At 34 years previous, the Brazilian is just not the quickest, and he was pressured to take a reserving for barging Hans Hateboer when the Atalanta man threatened to race previous. The house Alejandro Gomez discovered on the left to cross for Mario Pasalic to go within the equaliser on 49 minutes is not going to have gone unnoticed by Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson, both.
“We weren’t as neat and tidy within the second half,” Guardiola mentioned. “We started to tire however credit score to Atalanta.”
With two extra possibilities to seal their place within the spherical of 16, Metropolis is not going to dwell to remorse a disappointing, disjointed second half within the San Siro. The identical once more at Anfield on Sunday may have far better penalties.