Have City gone backwards under Pep?

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Three seasons ago, Manchester City were Premier League champions for a second time while they reached the Champions League semi-finals for the first time in the club’s history last season.

So what is one to make of a season in which Pep Guardiola’s men are in a scrap just to finish in the top four, and have been knocked out of the Champions League at the first knockout stage?

Guardiola was brought in to take the club to the next level, to truly put Manchester City among Europe’s elite. Instead, a case could be made that the club has gone backwards in his first season.

The team has certainly encountered familiar struggles. A shaky defence has arguably gotten worse under Guardiola, and City still seem to shrink on the big stage.

They were criticized for being too timid against Real Madrid last season with a place in the Champions League final on the line, and this year they have lost to Chelsea, Liverpool, Spurs, and now Monaco.

Wednesday’s 3-1 loss was shocking for how toothless the Citizens looked. An attacking starting XI that featured all five of Raheem Sterling, David Silva, Kevin de Bruyne, Leroy Sane, and Sergio Aguero failed to register a shot for over an hour.

By that time, they were already 2-0 down on the night and losing the tie on away goals. Kylian Mbappe took advantage of some slack marking to give Monaco the lead, and some equally poor defending allowed Fabinho to make it 2-0.

Even when City did strike to go back ahead in the tie, they failed to take control of the game and then conceded another cheap goal when Tiemoue Bakayoko headed home a free-kick, which proved to be the goal that knocked City out.

All three Monaco goals could have been avoided – and the same could be said for the three the French side scored at the Etihad Stadium in the first leg.

Strengthening the defence was known to be a priority last summer, and splashing the cash on John Stones, who had already begun to show his error-prone tendencies towards the end of his Everton career, was not going to do the trick on its own.

Instead, City’s defence is arguably worse than it was last year. Guardiola may abhor the concept of coaching tackles, but he’s previously been blessed with central defensive partnerships of Carlos Puyol and Gerard Pique, and Javi Martinez and Jerome Boateng.

Even die-hard City fans would be hard-pressed to argue that Stones and Aleksandar Kolarov are anywhere near up to that mark.

The Pep revolution that looked to have made an instant impact at the beginning of the season now seems to be stuck in reverse gear.

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WATCH: Oblak's incredible triple save

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Atletico Madrid booked their place in the Champions League quarter-finals for a fourth consecutive season but had goalkeeper Jan Oblak to thank for avoiding defeat in a 0-0 draw with Bayer Leverkusen on Wednesday.

Oblak produced a remarkable triple save midway through the second half as Atletico held on to their 4-2 first-leg advantage to take their place in Friday’s draw for the last eight.

The highlight of the match came 21 minutes from time when Oblak pulled off an incredible triple save to end Leverkusen’s hopes of a comeback.

Brandt pounced on a slack pass from Jose Maria Gimenez and after he was denied one-on-one with Oblak, the Slovenian twice pulled himself off the ground to save Volland’s follow-up efforts.

Oblak’s work for the night wasn’t done as he still had to make saves from long-range efforts by Leon Bailey, Wendell and Kevin Kampl to prevent Atletico slumping to just a second Champions League home defeat under Simeone.

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STATS: Thiago leads list of most successful final third passes in UCL

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Thiago Alcantara

While Arsenal were humiliated by Bayern Munich over the two legs of their Champions League last-16 tie, Thiago Alcantara produced an outstanding display for the German giants.

Thiago scored two crucial goals in the first leg at the Allianz Arena, giving Arsene Wenger’s side no chance to come back ahead of the return leg in London.

And according to this stat by WhoScored.com, Thiago (183) has made the most successful passes in the final third in the Champions League season so far.

Among the others on the list are Atletico Madrid’s Koke (171), followed by Barcelona magician Lionel Messi (163), Sevilla’s trio of Steven N’Zonzi (161), Samir Nasri (144) and Vitolo (138), along with Thiago’s team-mate David Alaba(144).

No wonder there are rumours about a potential move to the Nou Camp for the Spaniard…

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