Despite losing the first leg 1-0 in Lisbon, I still expect Manchester City to progress to the quarter finals of this season’s Europa League.
Roberto Mancini’s side failed to perform in the Portuguese capital, partly helped by Sporting’s closing down in their own final third, as well as City’s inability to string passes together in and around the penalty area.
Brazilian defender Xandao scored the only goal of the game at the colourful Jose Alvalade stadium 6 minutes into the second half after Joe Hart parried Matias Fernández’s free kick into the defenders path.
Bad news for Manchester City in this game came as early as the twelfth minute when Vincent Kompany was forced off clutching his calf early in the first half. His replacement, Joleon Lescott partnered Kolo Toure in the centre for the remainder of the game.
Edin Dzeko had another poor performance up front this evening before finally being substituted for Mario Balotelli in the final 20 minutes. The Bosnian striker, who caused a stir in the build-up to the game by insisting he hadn’t heard of any of the Sporting Club players, has failed to live up to his early season start and has fallen back to being the player whom many Manchester City fans were frustrated with last season.
Manchester City eventually sparked up after Balotelli made a brief appearance. The Italian striker set up an opportunity for David Silva who could only poke wide, in a game that Manchester City rarely threatened to trouble the Portuguese number 1, Rui Patricio.
The second leg is playing after a trip to Swansea over the weekend which is anything but a guaranteed 3 points for Manchester City, despite winning 4-0 in their season opener with the Premier League new boys.
Sporting Club currently sit 4th in the Portuguese Primeira Liga; 14 points behind league leaders FC Porto. With the prospect of a place in the quarter finals of the Europa League, don’t be surprised to see Ricardo Sa Pinto’s side rest key players over the weekend.
Manchester City have an abundance of talent at their disposal and should Mancini set his team up correctly, getting the best out of David Silva, Sergio Aguero and co in the second leg would surely see the Premier League leaders overcome their 1-0 deficit.
Manchester City are 1/2 with Sky Bet to qualify for the next round.