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Men's Team

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City v Lyon: Bernardo emerging as star man

SILVA SHINES: Bernardo excelled again in a central role in the win over Fulham

SILVA SHINES: Bernardo excelled again in a central role in the win over Fulham

Manchester City's Champions League opener against Lyon takes place on Wednesday. Club journalist Rob Pollard has taken a look at the major pre-match talking points.

1The Maine Man?

The rise of Bernardo Silva continues.

The Portuguese playmaker, whose time at City started somewhat slowly, is developing into one of the most dangerous midfielders in Europe.

His technical quality has never been in doubt - it’s arguable he has the best first touch in the game - the difference this season is his influence on matches. Whereas before he produced fleeting moments of individual brilliance, he is now dominating matches and becoming one of the main architects of City best attacking moments.

His performance against Fulham on Saturday was mesmerising, and few could argue he’s been City’s best and most influential player so far this season.

“It is almost impossible to be more pleased as a manager with him," Pep Guardiola said on Saturday, just weeks after describing his Community Shield display as “a masterpiece”.

Playing centrally, which he has for most of this season, appears to suit him – it’s where he spent his formative footballing years – and he is likely to be vital in unlocking Lyon’s defence on Wednesday.

READ: Arteta | City have best squad in world football

READ: Laporte | It's a pleasure to work with Arteta

2Sane quality

Leroy Sane gave a timely reminder of his brilliance with an electrifying return to the starting lineup in the win over Fulham on Saturday.

The winger scored two minutes into the game to set us on our way to a comfortable 3-0 victory.

And his pace and trickery were once again in evidence throughout the game.

It’s a huge boost for City. Sane was sensational last season, scoring 14 goals in all competitions and assisting a further 17, and rightly being named as the PFA Young Player of the Year.

We have a better chance of Champions League success with a fit and firing Leroy Sane in the ranks.

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3Laporte a cut above

Aymeric Laporte continues to impress.

The French defender has started every game this season and looks more assured with each passing week.  

He is strong in the air, reads the game brilliantly and is one of the finest passers in the Premier League. Few can ping a long-range, cross-field pass with quite the accuracy he does. 

His beautiful left-foot brings balance to City's backline and his emergence has been one of the season's big bonuses thus far. 

Expect him to keep his place on Wednesday. 

FOCUSED: Aymeric Laporte has enjoyed plenty of gametime but asserts he cannot become complacent...

Interviews

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Laporte: I cannot be complacent

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4Lyon threat

Wednesday’s opponents finished last season third in Ligue 1, 15 points adrift of PSG, and are currently seventh on the table having taken seven points from their first five matches.

They have lost to Nice and Reims already this term and there's unrest in the stands at the Stade de Lyon. 

But this is a squad with plenty of quality players who can hurt us, and we will have to be in top form if we are to kick off our group-stage campaign with three vital points.

Nabil Fekir, perhaps their most dangerous weapon, was the subject of strong interest from Liverpool in the summer, but he remained with the French side and is the fulcrum of their attacking play. He scored 18 Ligue 1 goals last season, as many as Radamel Falcao and Mario Balotelli. Nullifying him is undoubtedly our most important defensive task.

He will play in behind Moussa Dembele, the former Celtic striker who scored 48 goals in two full seasons at Celtic Park and caused us huge problems during the 3-3 draw with Brendan Rodgers’ side back in 2016.

Bertrand Traore will look to supplement Lyon attacks down the right, with Lucas Tousart and Tanguy Ndombele adding robustness in central areas.

Jason Denayer, a former City man, is likely to play at centre-half, Anthony Lopes is a solid goalkeeper, and Memphis Depay may have flattered to deceive at Manchester United but he possesses match-winning ability.

Guardiola never underestimates an opponent – particularly in the Champions League – and he won’t be starting now.

5City ready to mount challenge?

After last season’s disappointment of a quarter-final exit, are City in a better position to go all the way this time around?

Benjamin Mendy’s return from injury means we have more options tactically, as well as a devastating weapon down the left, and Laporte’s emergence as one of the most assured centre-backs in the Premier League certainly bodes well.

Riyad Mahrez brings additional trickery in tight games, and the squad in general are becoming more experienced on the big stage. 

Guardiola and his staff will expect to go deep into the competition. 

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