City’s second defeat in a week wasn’t quite as disgusting as the first but was thoroughly disappointing nontheless. Manuel Pellegrini set his team up to play in the same way they had in the excellent win in Sevilla a few weeks ago and they started the game brightly with some good possession, creating a couple of decent openings in the process. Unfortunately, City were listless and never really looked like getting themselves back into the game once Mario Mandžukić had given the hosts the lead in the 18th minute.
Though City qualified for the second stage of the Champions League earlier than they’ve ever done before this time around, it’s hard to shake the feeling that they’ve simply achieved the bare minimum again. A draw would have been a fine result from this game while the defeat probably puts to bed any chance of the Blues topping their group for the first time. But hey, why wait until the quarter final to be eliminated when you can get it over and done with in the last 16?
Here’s how I rated the players on the night.
1 Joe Hart – 7/10
Went down like a sack of spuds for the goal but came to his side’s rescue with a number of decent saves thereafter. Let’s hope the injury that forced him off with 10 minutes to go isn’t too serious.
3 Bacary Sagna – 5/10
Was marginally better than he was at the weekend but still didn’t use the ball well enough and offered nothing going forward. The booking he picked up in the second half for a perfect tackle on Paulo Dybala was extremely unfortunate.
26 Martín Demichelis – 4/10
Though he wasn’t as bad as he was against Liverpool, this was again a performance which demonstrated that Micho is, sadly, well past his sell-by date. He’s never been the quickest of players but he seems slower than ever at the moment and was rightly booked for hacking down a Juventus player who was just too quick for him in the first half. His passing out of defence was fine, more often than not, but he played his part in what was collectively a ropey display from the back four.
30 Nicolás Otamendi – 5/10
Was he fouled by Mandžukić in the build up to the goal or did he go down too easily? I remain thoroughly unconvinced by the former. Regardless, I’d personally much rather see a centre-half trying to stay on his feet and clearing the ball at all costs instead of going down in search of a free-kick. Otamendi was reasonably solid otherwise, but the damage was done by the part he played in a very, very soft goal.
22 Gaël Clichy – 5/10
Looked understandably rusty after a long spell on the sidelines but acquitted himself reasonably well. That said, whenever Clichy receives the ball in attacking areas it’s difficult to be optimistic that he’s going to do anything useful with it and so it proved in this game. The left-back spot seems to be one that has been neglected for a long time now and, I’m sorry to say it, but City will never do anything at this level with Clichy and Aleksandar Kolarov to choose from.
6 Fernando – 5/10
When things are going well and City are winning or drawing, Fernando’s water-carrying game is all well and good. But the moment City go a goal down the Brazilian is, frankly, about as useful as a chocolate fireguard. If Fernando’s job in this game was to try and nullify Paul Pogba then he failed at it. Pogba is, to be fair, an incredible player, but he ran riot in the first half and Fernando couldn’t get anywhere near him. His pass to release Kevin De Bruyne in the first half was a good one but his distribution was otherwise sidewards and inconsequential. Don’t get me wrong, he’s good at what he does, but he’s limited and has the turning circle of the QE2. We need more than that if we’re going to be to be competitive at this level.
25 Fernandinho – 7/10
Was left out of the first half of the game at the weekend, presumably to ensure his full participation in this one. Was then City’s best player against Juventus with some intelligent passes and bursts forward from midfield, only to be withdrawn after an hour. It’s not uncommon for a Pellegrini substitution to leave me scratching my head. This one made me want to scratch my eyes out.
42 Yaya Toure – 4/10
Seemed to (in my opinion, unfairly) bear the brunt of many City fans’ frustrations at the team’s poor showing at the weekend but put in a performance against Juventus which vindicated his detractors. His passing was off, he offered nothing defensively and he struggled to get hold of the ball unless it was played directly into his feet. There was a moment in the first half where he was one-on-one with a Juventus defender. The Yaya of old would have used his pace and power to skin the player in question, but the Yaya of now elected to skew a shot wide from 30-yards. Meanwhile, his heir apparent bossed the game for the opposition. Txiki, take note.
15 Jesús Navas – 5/10
Like many of the players dressed in ghost green on the night, Navas was functional but uninspiring. He’s a player who divides opinion amongst City’s fanbase; some think he’s useless, some think he’s quite good. As he showed against Juventus, the truth lies somewhere inbetween. He always gives his all and is capable of moments of quality but ask yourself, are we ever going to win the Champions League with players like Jesús Navas? Personally, I think not.
17 Kevin De Bruyne – 4/10
Started the game brightly with a dangerous early delivery into the box but faded badly thereafter and was virtually anonymous in the second half. You’d probably have to go back as far as the home game against Sevilla to find the last time De Bruyne did something meaningful in a City shirt. He needs David Silva’s return as much as anyone.
10 Sergio Agüero – 5/10
Barely touched the ball in the first half, through no fault of his own, and possibly could have done better when he unexpectedly found himself one-on-one with Gianluigi Buffon on the stroke of half time. Whenever he got it in the second half he lacked support and seemed to be trying to summon the spirit of Diego Maradona and it was no surprise to see him come off with 20 minutes to go. Remember the heady days when we thought only two senior strikers would be enough to mount a Premier League and Champions League challenge? How naïve we were.
18 Fabian Delph – 5/10
Many thought he should have started this game and they were probably right. He came on, played on the left of a midfield three, and ran around a bit while offering little of great substance. I’m not really sure what his manager was expecting him to do though, to be honest.
7 Raheem Sterling – Came on too late to mark
Replaced Agüero to play as part of an inter-changing front three, lost the ball pretty much every time he got it and squandered City’s best chance of the night with a pathetic effort from 6 yards. Not good enough.
13 Willy Caballero – Came on too late to mark
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Let’s hope the injury to Joe Hart isn’t too serious.
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Written by Dan Burke