Having stormed to an emphatic 5-0 win in the first leg, Manchester City welcome Sporting Lisbon to the Etihad on Wednesday for the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.
The Citizens have one foot firmly in the quarter-finals of the competition as they endeavour to keep their hopes of a domestic and continental treble alive.
Pep Guardiola needs no reminding of how the Champions League has eluded him time and time again during his time with Man City, but his side laid down a marker in the first leg of their last-16 battle against the reigning Portuguese champions.
Bernardo Silva struck twice alongside efforts from Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez and Phil Foden to effectively kill off the tie over the course of 90 minutes, and a similar ruthless streak was on show when bitter rivals Manchester United paid a visit on Sunday.
Indeed, Guardiola’s men taught their former noisy neighbours a footballing lesson in a 4-1 romping to re-establish their six-point lead atop the Premier League rankings, with City winning seven of their last eight fixtures in all competitions ahead of the second leg.
Not since the 2016-17 season have the Citizens failed to make it as far as the quarter-finals in the Champions League, and a slice of history is also on the line this week, as City could match the record for six consecutive home wins in the Champions League knockout stages.
Furthermore, each of City’s last 10 home games in Europe’s elite competition have seen the Premier League champions come up trumps – scoring at least two goals on each occasion – and Sporting are realistically only playing for pride this week.
While there is certainly no shame in coming out second best against Man City, the manner of Sporting’s capitulation at home to the English champions was alarming for Ruben Amorim, whose side need to pull off the greatest Champions League comeback in history to advance.
It will come as no surprise to learn that no team has ever come back from a five-goal first-leg deficit to advance in the Champions League, with Barcelona’s extraordinary Remontada against Paris Saint-Germain five years ago (0-4 away and 6-1 at home) representing the next best thing.
On a brighter note for Sporting, they have not let their heads drop domestically and come into the second leg having won two and drawn one of their last three Primeira Liga matches, including a 2-0 success over Arouca on Saturday thanks to Islam Slimani’s brace.
Sporting have never advanced past the last-16 stage of the Champions League and that is incredibly unlikely to change this week, with the Portuguese side only making it this far once before in 2008-09 and ironically losing the first leg of that tie 5-0 to Bayern Munich. The German giants then went on to complete the job with an even greater margin of victory in the second leg, 7-1.
Man City and Sporting have only ever met at the Etihad once before – with the Citizens marching to a 3-2 success in the last-16 of the Europa League but being dumped out on away goals – and one or two consolation strikes will surely be the only potential joy for the visitors on Wednesday.
Manchester City Champions League form:
Manchester City form (all competitions):
Sporting Lisbon Champions League form:
Sporting Lisbon form (all competitions):
We say: Manchester City 3-0 Sporting Lisbon
Sporting can afford to play without fear at the Etihad knowing that their efforts will likely be in vain either way, but the absence of two key midfielders spells danger for the beleaguered visitors.
City need not throw caution to the wind given their healthy five-goal advantage, but Guardiola will still expect his side to win with minimal difficulty as quarter-final preparations begin.