Sergio Aguero poses problem for Pep Guardiola and other Man City talking points

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Sergio Aguero (l) scores a thumping third for Manchester City at Basel.

Manchester City can look forward to the Champions League quarter-finals after goals from Ilkay Gundogan (two), Bernardo Silva and Sergio Aguero earned a clinical 4-0 first-leg triumph at Basel.

Pep Guardiola’s men were out of sight at a freezing St Jakob-Park by 23 minutes courtesy of Germany midfielder Gundogan’s header, Portugal playmaker Silva’s excellent volley and Aguero’s rocket from 30 yards. A consummate second-half display saw Gundogan add to the score with a refined curled shot.

AGUERO IS A MAN APART

There are few superlatives left to describe Aguero’s contribution to the Blues cause.

The Argentina centre forward only had one shot at goal, but he made it count as he lashed home from 30 yards. Such is the quality of his ball striking, his 198th effort for the club still found the side netting despite the distance at play.

But the relationship between Aguero and Guardiola remains a curious one. Brazil No9 Gabriel Jesus is scheduled to return “maybe in one week, 10 days, two weeks” and his mobility makes him a better fit for the Spaniard’s famed system.

And yet, in Jesus’ absence, Aguero has scored a stupendous 14 times in his last 11 run-outs.

As problems go, it is a welcome one.

Gabriel Jesus was injured at Crystal Palace on December 31.

Gabriel Jesus was injured at Crystal Palace on December 31.

SECOND STRING MAKE THEIR CASE

The wealth of Guardiola’s options are the envy of Europe.

His riches were on full show in Switzerland as two players who will not make his full-strength XI grasped their chance to shine.

Gundogan is a man renowned for his supreme passing, yet his completion rate was down at 82.1 per cent – for comparison, he recorded 90.2 per cent in Saturday’s 5-1 humiliation of Leicester. What he lacked in precision with his passing he made up for with his finishing.

Belgium midfielder Kevin De Bruyne was rested just past the hour mark for David Silva. But it will be Guardiola’s first signing in June 2016, from Borussia Dortmund, who will surely make way on a permanent basis.

This was also a better night for Bernardo Silva. A bouncing ball was expertly slotted home, although the sight of Germany winger Leroy Sane returning as a second-half substitute should signal the end of his six-match run of starts.

NOT IN GOOD NIC

This might not have been a walk in the Park if referee Jonas Eriksson had been alert in the early stages.

Nicolas Otamendi was the luckiest man in Switzerland when his clumsy body check on forward Dimitri Oberlin in the penalty box went without punishment.

This continued an uncertain few days for the Argentina centre-back. He provided the only blemish on the thumping of Leicester, gifting the ball to England striker Jamie Vardy to score.

Has the January introduction of France Under-21 international Aymeric Laporte unsettled him?

The rough edges which defined his first two seasons in blue looked to have been sanded down. He cannot afford for them to reappear.

Nicolas Otamendi (c) had an uncertain start in Basel.

Nicolas Otamendi (c) had an uncertain start in Basel.

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Ilkay Gundogan scores twice as Manchester City close in on Champions League quarter-final with 4-0 thrashing at Basel

David Cooper 14/02/2018
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Ilkay Gundogan scored twice as Manchester City put one foot in the Champions League quarter-finals with an emphatic 4-0 win over Basel.

In-form Sergio Aguero scored his 198th City goal and Bernardo Silva also got on the scoresheet as Pep Guardiola’s side cruised to victory on a freezing night at St Jakob-Park.

Most of the damage was done as City rattled in three goals in a blistering nine-minute spell early in the first half, dashing Basel’s hopes of causing an upset after making a bright start.

Gundogan struck a sublime second after the break but the Premier League leaders were cruising by then, having eased off to conserve energy in their continuing quadruple quest.

Kevin De Bruyne was removed from the action early and Guardiola also eased Leroy Sane back into action as a second-half substitute following his rapid recovery from an ankle injury.

It was not long before City established control, although they did survive a couple of early scares.

First the pacy Dimitri Oberlin got behind the defence as he raced onto a long ball. He had options as Ederson raced out to meet him, including trying to lob the advancing keeper, but he miskicked and allowed Nicolas Otamendi to clear.

Otamendi and Oberlin were involved again as the Basel striker went down in the area attempting to beat the Argentinian but Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson gave nothing.

City made the most of those reprieves to power into a commanding lead.

Gundogan, who had already tested Tomas Vaclik with an early header, got the opener when he met a 14th-minute De Bruyne corner with another firm header at the near post.

A second goal quickly followed as Raheem Sterling’s cross from the left was cleared only as far as Bernardo Silva by Leo Lacroix. With time and space to compose himself, the Portuguese allowed the ball to drop before hitting a firm half-volley past Vaclik.

The visitors were now rampant and the tie soon seemed as a good as over as Aguero let fly from outside the area to register his 29th goal of the season after a charge upfield by Fernandinho. The Argentinian’s powerful shot rocketed into the bottom corner in another example of clinical finishing following his four strikes against Leicester at the weekend.

That allowed Guardiola’s men to drop the tempo but De Bruyne still went close as he shot over before the break.
Basel started the second half well, with Mohamed Elyounoussi testing Ederson from distance and Oberlin dragging a shot across the face of goal, but they remained vulnerable to City’s attack.

Gundogan put City even further in front when he wrong-footed the defence and fired a superb curling shot beyond Vaclik from the edge of the area.

He should have completed a hat-trick after being teed up by Aguero in the latter stages but Vaclik saved. Aguero was given a big hug by Guardiola as he left the field soon after.

Basel fought on, with Oberlin heading wide and Elyounoussi shooting at Ederson, but the Swiss champions were well beaten and their frustrations showed as tempers threatened to boil over in the closing minutes.

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Manchester City player ratings as Ilkay Gundogan stars against Basel in the Champions League

Chris Bailey 14/02/2018
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Manchester City can already start planning for the quarter-finals after romping to a 4-0 victory over Basel in the first leg of their round-of-16 Champions League tie.

The Premier League side were 3-0 up by the 23rd minute as Ilkay Gundogan, Bernardo Silva and Sergio Aguero all conjured up sublime goals. Gundogan arguably scored the best of the night in the second half – but who were the other star performers?

Check our ratings below:

RATINGS

Ederson – Dimitri Oberlin beat him to a one-on-one but his rush off the line distracted him enough. Safe hands otherwise, especially dealing with Basel’s very early attacking intent. 6

Kyle Walker – Basel dared play down his flank very few times and he’s such a potent attacking outlet, completing a total of six dribbles. Remained a livewire until the end. 8

Nicolas Otamendi – Was troubled by Dimitri Oberlin for the brief time the scores were level and could have given away a penalty. Looked slow to react when ever sized up by an attacker in the box. 5

Vincent Kompany – Less obvious than his centre-back partner – in this case a good thing. Played Oberlin onside in one dangerous moment but generally took charge at the back. 6

Fabian Delph – Not fooling anyone into thinking he’s a natural full-back but another neat and tidy performance, even though Basel tried to expose the right-hand side several times. 6

Fernandinho – Rampaging run led to Aguero’s goal. Was the man against boys in the middle of the park – made four interceptions, better than anyone on the field. 8

Ilkay Gundogan – That the German is still not a guaranteed starter speaks to the depth of City’s squad. A header of supreme quality before his wonderful second-half strike – though the only blight was his  wayward passing at times. 9

Kevin De Bruyne – City’s conductor-in-chief was not entirely in sync the whole way through, despite some trademark sweeping passes. 7

Bernardo Silva – A consistent run of games is bearing fruit for Bernardo and his sweet, looping strike in the first half underlined that fact. Enjoying playing off the right.  8

Raheem Sterling – Used his pace but not to hugely great effect – should have scored after the break after getting in behind Basel’s line. Still proved a danger. 7

Sergio Aguero – On first glance the goalkeeper should have saved his strike. On second you were very mistaken. Took the ball from deep and tormented Basel time and time again. 8

SUBSTITUTES

Leroy Sane – Turned a seven-week injury into two but there was no miracle performance here. Looked severely off the pace – and for good reason. 5

David Silva – Subdued upon return from injury but game was up and there was no need for heroics. 6

Danilo – Replaced Aguero with five minutes to go. N/A

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