Man City v Atletico Madrid: City to sneak first leg lead
They're not the Atletico of old but Paul Higham still expects Man City to have to scrap to get a first leg lead in their Champions League quarter-final...
City need to play like favourites
There was a sharp intake of breath from Man City fans when they pulled Atletico out of the hat, as they're just the type of side that has troubled them in Champions League competition.
But City are the favourites to lift the Champions League, got to last year's final and Atleti are not perhaps the same animal they have been in recent years - so you fancy the Premier League champions to progress.
Pep Guardiola's main challenge here is to avoid the tinkering and second-guessing he's done in big European games previously, including last year's final. Whether it's trying to be too clever we don't know, but for all Guardiola's brilliance it's been his big downfall in these big games.
Missing their best defender in Ruben Dias is a blow but City will dominate possession and Guardiola has won two of his three meetings with Diego Simeone so knows how to handle the unique challenge he presents.
Atleti's defence not quite what it was
Simeone may have only won one of his three games against Guardiola, but that one win helped Atletico dump Pep's Bayern Munich out of the Champions League semi-finals on away goals, in a classic Simeone display.
They'll look to stifle, frustrate, slow the game down and break up the flow of City's passing game, and looking to pounce on any mistakes at the back with their clinical set of forwards.
Atleti are not the defensive giants of old, having conceded 37 in La Liga this season they've let in eight more than Barcelona and 11 more than Real Madrid, but they'll have their big game heads on and what their style does is cut down City's margin for error - they'll have to take chances and not give many away or they'll be punished.
City should extend winning record
City are worthy favourites here at 1.3 to win the first leg at the Etihad, with the draw priced up at 5.0 and an Atletico away win 9.5.
With 30 clean sheets Jan Oblak has more than anyone else during his time in the Champions League but only once have Man City not scored in 28 Champions League home games under Guardiola.
Atleti will need a huge performance to keep out City, who have had some minor problems scoring goals but are creating plenty of chances.
The bookies fancy City to get a few as over 2.5 goals is favoured at 1.73 but 'No' in the both teams to score market is fancied there at 1.75.
Count the cards - even the reds
A lot depends on Atleti's approach, but however adventurous they are they'll be scrappy and in full wind-up mode so cards could be on the menu, and not just yellows either as Atletico have been red card magnets in the Champions League.
Keeping your cool under provocation is all part of the blueprint for dealing with Simeone's side in these big matches and we could easily see a red waved again at the Etihad by referee Istvan Kovacs. He's handed out 21 yellows in four Champions League games this season including 11 of them in Lille v Sevilla!
Atleti provide plenty of firepower
Antoine Griezmann scored twice against Liverpool in the group stages and he's Atletico's top scorer in the Champions League with 25 in 55 games - including four goals in his last six games in the competition.
With Griezmann and Joao Felix, Atletico actually have two £100m strikers as well as Luis Suarez to pick from so although the emphasis will be on defending they have some clinical finishers to call on.
Griezmann is Atleti's top Champions League scorer this season with five but is 6.0 as an anytime scorer chance, as is Felix has scored five in five for his club, while Suarez is more fancied at 4.0.
Suarez is unlikely to start but scored twice as a sub on Saturday to show he's still a dangerous customer late in games, while Felix is a huge threat early on having scored six of his 11 goals this season inside the first 11 minutes.
Unsurprisingly with those timings, Felix has been the first goalscorer in seven of the nine games he's found the net in - while being the last scorer in the other two just for good measure! He's 15 to score first at the Etihad and the same price to have the final say.
City spread their goals about this season with Riyad Mahrez (22), Raheem Sterling (14), Kevin De Bruyne (12), Bernardo Silva (10) and Phil Foden (11) all reaching double figures in all competitions, so the threats come from everywhere.
Selection clues from Burnley suggest top scorer Mahrez will start, and he's 2.2 to bag another, while De Bruyne is 3.25 after scoring his fourth goal in four at Turf Moor.
You're always kind of guessing with City scorers though and there may not be too many goals in this leg so all best bets should be aimed at a tight affair with City just edging it.
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