A 4-0 win in the first leg meant that Guardiola could play his under 19s side without worrying about the result
Manchester City suffered their first home defeat since 2016 in the Champion’s League against Swiss side FC Basel losing 2-1. Regardless of the result City still progress to the Quarter Finals as their 4-0 cushion from the first leg was enough to see them through.
Basel’s win means that they go into an exclusive list of clubs that have beat City this season: Wigan, Shakhtar, Girona (preseason) and Liverpool. This game was very reminiscent of the last Group Stage game against Shakhtar. If manager Pep Guardiola knows he will be going through to the next round he will opt to play a very young and inexperienced side.
Zinchenko, Foden, and Jesus all got starts with Diaz and Adarabioyo coming on later in the game. All of those players gave energetic and spirited performances but they lacked composure. Far too often their passes fell short or behind their man or they picked a safe pass rather than attempting to spark an attacking move.
The only veteran player that made it into the side was Yaya Touré but that was more of an advantage to Basel than to Manchester City. As great a player as Touré has been in the past that player was not there that night. His passing left a lot to be desired and his mobility was just painful to see.
Basel do deserve a lot a credit for the way they handled the game. Jesus and Sané were man marked for the entire 90 minutes and City didn’t have a solution for that. All their possession had to be channeled through the centre of the pitch but the well-drilled Swiss side left no open spaces whatsoever. As a result, the ball went backwards more than it did forwards.
It took only seven minutes for the game to get a goal. Gabriel Jesus got on the end of a Bernardo Silva low cross to grab a goal on his first start of the year. The goal was more a product of defensive errors than City’s attacking prowess however as the cross went through the legs of two, yes two, Basel defenders.
That lead lasted for ten minutes as Mohamed Elyounoussi bagged an equaliser after a lucky deflection left him all alone in the middle of the box with only Bravo to beat. There was perhaps a question to be asked of Bravo’s positioning as Zinchenko was blocking part of the goal but to save a shot from six yards out was always going to be tough.
The second half was a lot poorer from Manchester City, one of the poorest we’ve seen this season. Going forward they were like watching England play in a major tournament and defensively they were like watching England play in a major tournament. The lack in attacking intent proved costly when an Elyounoussi pass to Michel Lang left Touré and ZInchenko exposed. Lang blasted the ball from a tight angle and Bravo could only knock it into the roof of his own goal.
What was most surprising about the game was Guardiola’s choice of substitutes. 2-1 down he decides to leave Walker, Agüro, and De Bruyne on the bench in favour of Diaz and defender Adarabioyo. Even if the tie is over in the first leg it was disappointing to see the lack of desire to win the game. That frustration was evident in the stadium with the only chant heard in the full 90 was a handful of the old ‘Cmon City’ whenever they played the ball from Sané back to Bravo.
That 2-1 victory means that Basel are the only side to have beaten both Manchester clubs this season. With Manchester United playing Liverpool on Saturday 10th March, however, that could all change. Manchester City goes to Stoke on Monday 12th.