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Monday, 21 January, 2019

Monaco set to take advantage of City's fragile backline

Hosts boast attacking threat to push City all the way

Radamel Falcao is one of Monaco's main men
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Champions League last-16 second leg
BT Sport 2, 7.45pm Wednesday

Manchester City's 5-3 victory at home to Monaco was a breathtaking, rollercoaster of a contest and there could be a few more twists and turns in the return match at the Stade Louis II where the outcome of the tie looks uncertain.

The clear advantage lies with City, who are 2-9 favourites to progress, but Monaco played some fantastic football in Manchester and might as well roll the dice a second time by committing to attack.

City were staring down the barrel after the opening 70 minutes of the first leg, when they were trailing 3-2 against high-quality opposition who were slicing through them with alarming ease.

But the Citizens stuck to their attacking principles and took advantage of a Monaco side whose obvious weakness was in defence.

City's approach to the return match will be fascinating. The obvious temptation would be to protect their two-goal lead but Pep Guardiola is renowned for playing high-risk football and did not seem ready to take a backward step when interviewed immediately after the first leg.

He said: “We are going to Monaco to score as many goals as possible. If we don't score in Monaco we will be eliminated.”

Those comments can be interpreted two ways – a vote of confidence in City's attack or a lack of belief in their defence.

Another high-scoring match is expected with over 2.5 goals a 4-9 chance and both teams to score at 2-5.

Monaco's challenge is tough but City have lost five matches by at least two goals this season, four of them away from home.

City have three successive clean sheets under their belts but none of their opponents – Sunderland, Stoke and Middlesbrough – can get close to the attacking threat posed by Monaco.

The French leaders are the highest league scorers in the top five European football nations this season, notching 84 goals in 29 Le Championnat matches.

They average 2.90 goals per league game, which is more than Bayern Munich (2.50), Real Madrid (2.65) and Barcelona (2.85).

Their top scorer, Radamel Falcao, is back to his best and looks nothing like the player who struggled with Manchester United and Chelsea.

And the Colombian is well supported by pacy duo Kylian Mbappe and Thomas Lemar, who are attracting interest from some of the top clubs on the continent.

At the top level, teams require mental strength as well as immense skill and Monaco have shown their mettle by recovering from the Etihad reverse with four successive domestic victories.

Monaco's obvious weakness is in defence and the back four will be understrength with key Polish centre-back Kamil Glik serving a suspension.

City are likely to take advantage of Glik's absence and should get themselves on the scoresheet.

However, City's defence cannot be trusted against high-class attacks and may put them at risk of elimination.

It is not difficult to imagine Monaco forging a path to the quarter-finals, but backing them to win on the night is a safer bet.

1pt 13-8 bet365

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Team news
Kamil Glik is suspended but fellow centre-back Jemerson is available after suspension. Radamel Falcao (groin) came off the bench for Saturday's 2-1 win at home to Bordeaux and is expected to start.

Manchester City
Gabriel Jesus and Ilkay Gundogan are injured. Vincent Kompany has been building up his match fitness but is unlikely to be risked.

Key stat
Monaco have scored at least two goals in nine of their last ten matches.

But the Citizens stuck to their attacking principles and took advantage of a Monaco side whose obvious weakness was in defence
E.W. Terms
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