Former Man City play-maker Ali Benarbia has warned Monaco will present a sizeable obstacle for Pep Guardiola’s side.
Benarbia, who enjoyed two stunning seasons with City from 2001 to 2003, also played for Monaco for three seasons between 1995-98, winning the French Player of the Year while with Les Rouges et Blancs.
Now a commentator/pundit on French TV and radio, Benarbia – who was also voted City’s Player of the Year in 2001/02 – says it will be a fascinating tie and expects it to be very close.
“I work for radio and TV for Ligue 1 in France so I know pretty much all there is to know about Monaco,” said Ali.
“I obviously care a lot about Monaco because I spent three fantastic years there and we had a great side that did well in the UEFA Cup and Champions League during my spell.
“We finished second in Ligue 1 in the first season and then won the title the second season by 12 points – the first for 10 years.
“Then we finished third in season three and reached the Champions League semi-finals after knocking a very strong Manchester United out along the way and had a very talented team.”
Looking at the present Monaco side, Benarbia believes City will need to be defensively strong when they face the French side who have a large and strong squad this season.
“They’ve always been one of France’s best teams and this season they are strong again,” said the player still much loved by City fans.
“In previous years they have had to sell their best stars, but now they have a chairman who keeps their best players and they have three good players for every position – they could easily have two very strong teams.
“As a result, they’ve been able to rotate their team regularly and so have had very few injuries. They also score a lot of goals – the 53 they’ve managed this season in the league is the best in Europe and they are averaging more than three goals per game.
“They are like City in many ways and I think the team who defends the best over the two legs will go through to the quarter-finals because both teams will score goals, for sure.”
Benarbia also says English teams may need a shift in thinking if they are to once again dominate European football.
He said: “The Premier League and Champions League is totally different but teams in England treat the Premier League with more importance and this has been a problem over the past few years.
“Teams in other countries treat the Champions League as more important than the domestic league. There are five or six teams who can win the Premier League whereas I think Monaco will challenge with PSG for the title until the end, but maybe not be strong enough to win it.
“It will be an exciting game and as I say, I think there will be a lot of goals.”