Manchester City’s bid to secure a maiden Champions League crown resumes on Wednesday evening, as Pep Guardiola’s side prepare themselves for a titanic tussle with 13-time European champions, Real Madrid.
The Premier League outfit head to the Spanish capital with a one-goal advantage having played out a thrilling 4-3 encounter at the Etihad last week, albeit with plenty of work still left to do against Carlo Ancelotti’s newly-crowned La Liga title winners.
A place in the showpiece alongside title rivals Liverpool is up for grabs, although the City boss will be firmly focused on the job at hand in the Bernabeu in midweek, as his side bid to reach a second successive final.
There have been accusations that the 51-year-old has a tendency to overthink in games of such magnitude – a claim he has recently refuted – although one decision that should come easily is leaving out £100m man, Jack Grealish.
The club’s record signing has proven a “major disappointment” since his move from Villa Park last summer, in the words of pundit Ally McCoist, with the fleet-footed forward yet to truly ignite in his new surroundings.
In his 20 top-flight starts this season, the 26-year-old has chipped in with a measly tally of just two goals and two assists, as well as created just four big chances – a dismal return for a player of his undoubted quality.
The Englishman himself has admitted he needs to show a greater level of selfishness in front of goal, while Newcastle United legend Alan Shearer has criticised the £250k-per-week gem for keeping everything “safe and simple” as if he is “scared to lose possession and take a gamble.”
Such accusations would have been unheard of during his Aston Villa days, when the 20-cap international was a regular risk-taker, notably making the difference in the final third last term with 16 goal contributions in the league.
As it is, the £72m-rated man looks a shadow of his former self, epitomised by his limp showing in the 4-0 win over Leeds United at the weekend, in which he lost possession on 19 occasions and received an average match rating of just 6.9, as per SofaScore.
Manchester Evening News writer Stuart Brennan was even more damning with his assessment of the Birmingham born star, awarding him just a 4/10 match rating and writing of his performance that: “Still short of being a major influence on games – could start by staying on his feet more often.”
In truth, having been resigned to the bench in the last week’s win over Los Blancos, the trip to Ellan Road had offered the chance to impress – although he spectacularly failed to take that chance.
Guardiola must simply be ruthless with his team selection in Madrid and axe the summer signing from his starting XI.