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Atletico Have Potential To Make Manchester City Pay Despite Etihad Defeat

Atletico Have Potential To Make Manchester City Pay Despite Etihad Defeat

Manchester City have one foot in the Champions League semi-finals after their quarter-final first leg win over Atletico Madrid at the Etihad on Tuesday night.

Pep Guardiola's side were on top for the entire game, but Atleti will go into the second leg with a glimmer of hope.

The lack of a striker in City's arsenal could well come back to haunt them in Madrid, after they wasted plenty of chances in front of goal on Tuesday.

Manchester City 1-0 Atletico: English side with advantage but tie far from over

Manchester City took one step closer to claiming a maiden Champions League crown with their decisive win over Atletico Madrid on Tuesday. The winner, from Kevin de Bruyne, came after some brilliant play and a super through ball from Phil Foden.

Foden had been on the pitch for only a minute as a substitute when he brilliantly set up the match winner.

De Bruyne's winner was tidy, and City were full value for the win, but there is no doubt that Pep Guardiola will be anxious about the margin of victory. City were utterly dominant against Atletico but, other than de Bruyne's goal, they struggled to make meaningful chances.

There were a few reasons for that, but one jumped out immediately.

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Through the sheer brilliance of their attacking talent, and the defensive efficiency that Guardiola has instilled in this team, City have gotten on perfectly fine all season without a striker. The departure of Sergio Aguero last summer saw the likes of Harry Kane, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Erling Haaland linked with City, before Guardiola decided to persevere without a focal point of attack.

It was worked a treat all season long, but Tuesday night looked for large periods to be the first time it cost City. They sent plenty of crosses in to the area, and built attacks around the areas where a striker would normally linger, to little or no avail.

The absence of a striker at the Etihad led to Manchester City wasting their possession against a lethargic Atletico side.

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At the other end, Atletico brought just about nothing to  the game. To put it bluntly, this was the most lethargic performance from any team in a Champions League knockout game in over a decade. For the first time under Diego Simeone, Atleti did not manage even a single shot on goal during the 90 minutes, as they struggled to make their counter attacking game work against City's defensive organisation.

There is, however, a lot of this that Atletico will take a positive in to the second leg.

There are no positives to be taken from their attacking performance but, generally, their defence held up well against the most stacked attack in English and, perhaps, European football.

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This was comfortably the worst Champions League knockout performance we have seen from an Atletico team under Simeone. Given how ruthless City have proven themselves to be in this competition already this year, you would have been forgiven for expecting a drubbing at the Etihad.

But, despite City's best efforts, Atletico will host the return leg next week only needing a goal to level things up. In front of the partisan crowd in Madrid, with their reputation for pulling it out of the bag in big European games, it would be hard to bet against Atletico if they did manage to get things back to level pegging.

This is Manchester City we're talking about. They are, undoubtedly, the most ruthless winning machine in European football, and it would be a huge surprise to see them knocked out at this stage.

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In saying that, they have crumbled at this stage of the competition in years gone by.

Diego Simeone has worked plenty of miracles with Atleti over the past decade, and still you get the sense this comeback would be among the very best, if they pulled it off.

It's a mark of the man, and the team, that it still doesn't seem entirely out of the question.

SEE ALSO: Guardiola Identifies 'Misconception' About Simeone's Footballing Philosophy

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