Date: 15th February 2018 at 7:55pm
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The cuckoo clocks ground to an almighty halt as City rang into Basel to take on their local FC in the last sixteen of the Champions League.

Guardiola’s now battle-hardened warriors managed only minor surgery in terms of rest and recuperation as Zinchenko and Laporte made way for the returning Delph and Kompany. On the bench he was able to welcome back David Silva and Leroy Sane and we are now told that de Jesus return is now closer than the horizon. This is great news bearing in mind the challenges that lie ahead for the Blues.

What was needed was for City to get themselves in a strong position and to try to ensure that the tie could be brought to a conclusion before the Swiss team arrive at the Etihad in three weeks time.

So Ederson lined-up in goal with Walker, Otamendi, Kompany and Delph across the back. Fernandinho once again took his place in front with De Bruyne and Gundogan behind Bernardo, Aguero and Sterling.

City set off at a blistering pace pushing and pressing Basel back towards their own goal, although on the rare occasions in the early exchanges that Basel got on the front foot, Ederson came to the rescue.

By the time the quarter-hour mark came around the game had taken a number of interesting turns but there was nothing disinteresting when the king of the dead ball delivered a near-post corner which was neatly headed home by Gundogan to put City ahead. Within ten more minutes the game was effectively up as a deft drive by the weekly-improving Bernardo made it 2-0 and then Sergigol got in on the act with an excellent shot from the edge of the box.

So, with little more of a quarter of the match passed, the contest was pretty much over as City ran riot. That said, at the other end, Otamendi made a last-season error when he didn’t leave the penalty area to deal with Oberlin, stood his ground but ended up in a tumble which could easily have been interpreted as a penalty. The Blues were lucky to escape with that one and at one stage, rather than being 3-0 to the good, they could easily have found themselves on the wrong end of 2-1.

However, with the scoreboard showing 3-0 to City, the Blues were in no mood to sacrifice the football, but to take breathers during the match as they have in other matches recently, this time it was a matter of avoiding any obtuse tackles.

Just after half time, the impressive Gundogan made it 4-0 and ought to have made it 5-0 but for just about the only save that Mignolet-lookalike Vaclik made all night as he had spent the earlier minutes regularly visiting the back of his net.

For once it was easy to select Gundogan as overall man-of-the-match. His two goals were superb and his all-round contribution to the match was probably his best so far for City.

As usual, De Bruyne drove the game forward as City came at Basel from all angles looking dangerous enough to score at every opportunity as they bombarded the home goal – there was a sharpness about City in all parts of the field which in turn made the evening a good one leaving them in a great position for the matches in front of them, which include the Carabao Cup Final, an away match at the Emirates and a home match against Chelsea before the return match with Basel.

The broader feeling is that City have done enough already to progress to the next round and that Pep’s team selection for that match can be one of a more relaxed nature, which will enable him to ensure that his front-line troops are available against Arsenal twice and Chelsea which with positive results could see City gain their first silverware of the season and be easing their way closer to the Premier League title. That said, when the Carabao Cup Final is taking place the Stretfords et al will be hoping to be creeping closer and nibbling away, however temporarily at City’s masterful 16-point lead at the head of the table.

With this win, City broke yet another record, being the first team to take a 4-0 lead in an away leg in the knockout stages of the Champions League. Sadly, it was to last only 24 hours as Liverpool usurped their prowess by beating Porto 0-5. For once Sue didn’t have to hide in the wardrobe or under the bed. She could sit there screeching at the tv set like a banshee on heat.

Aguero now stands only 2 goals away from having scored 200 for City. It would be fantastic if he could achieve that at Wembley, wouldn’t it, although if he plays against Wigan on Monday, maybe he could break that barrier then.

Kompany strolled through this match comparatively easily as did Delph. Guardiola did manage to give David Silva and Sane around half an hour each to sharpen up in time for the demands ahead, and Danilo replaced Aguero towards the end in order to give Delph a bit of help on the left.

All in all it was a very comfortable night for City. Apart from the early kicking that PSG were given by Sergio Ramos and Casemiro, I didn’t see a lot to frighten me in that match. Sure, Los Blancos, having a shocking domestic season announced their reluctance to relax their grip on the Champions League trophy, but the veteran Ronaldo apart, the rest of the team looks like an upmarket Everton.

Despite their early pace, PSG surrendered their lead and slowed the pace considerably.

I think City’s biggest threat does not lie in the annals of Europe. Barcelona apart, the biggest threat lies just 40 miles down the M62.

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