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Kyle Walker will be key for Man City as Lyon look to hit them on break in Champions League

MANCHESTER CITY know they will dominate the game against Lyon.

Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan will be given freedom with the ball from midfield, while Raheem Sterling will be given plenty of chances to make an impact.

This should not be a surprise.

In the Champions League this season, Lyon have had less possession on four occasions — winning two, drawing one and losing one.

That loss was away to Juventus in the last 16 and they won on away goals.
Over both ties against the  Italians, they averaged just 37 per cent possession.

Against semi-finalists RB Leipzig in the group stage, they picked up three points with just 41 per cent possession.

Having less of the ball is their preference.

And Lyon are comfortable playing away from home — their away record in Ligue 1 is played 15, won six, drawn three and lost six, which was the third best in the division.

So for City, this will not be about how they can dominate possession.

Instead, it will be about making sure they cannot be caught on the counter.
With this in mind, one of the most important players on the pitch will be Kyle Walker.

It would be wrong to suggest the England full-back is under-rated but he, perhaps, is not spoken about in the same vein as City’s wealth of superstars.

But he is incredibly important to Pep Guardiola and what he needs from his full-back playing his highly adaptable version of a 4-3-3.

Walker’s pace will be crucial in nullifying Cornet’s eye for a counter. Stop Cornet and you stop one of Lyon’s main attacking outlets playing from deep.

It’s a system that has worked very well for Pep over the last couple of years but there is  always that danger of becoming vulnerable in certain areas. Extra protection is needed.

Rodri is the holding midfielder, while De Bruyne and Gundogan push forward.

The left-back, whether it is Joao Cancelo, Oleksandr Zinchenko or Benjamin Mendy, is the attacking outlet.

Walker also gets forward but, more often than not, he tucks in from the right to play as that  second defensive midfielder alongside Rodri.

This gives them a solid platform to deal with the counter, maintaining a four-man defence at the back.

This will be key for Walker and, subsequently, City as a whole, when they come up against one of Lyon’s biggest attacking threats  in Maxwel Cornet.

He has been converted from an attacking, speedy winger into a clever wing-back who picks and chooses his moments to burst  forward into space to bring Lyon up the pitch.

Pep will know all about him — he scored three of Lyon’s four goals when they met City in the 2018-19 competition.

Walker’s pace will therefore be crucial in nullifying Cornet’s eye for a counter.

City need width to stretch Lyon as much as possible. There may be some fragility at the back for City but their attacking talent will be enough

Stop Cornet and you ultimately stop one of Lyon’s main attacking outlets playing from deep.

But City cannot just rely on Walker to ensure Lyon are kept at bay. That starts from City’s attacking three.

Their collective press is phenomenal, just ask Raphael Varane.

He was pickpocketed for both City goals as they knocked out Real Madrid at the Etihad.

City commit so many players forward that when it is lost, they know how to press in a certain way to win the ball back as quickly as possible.

They squeeze you inwards, back towards your own goal.

The likelihood is Lyon will defend with a back five, so when City do have the ball, Sterling will be an important outlet.

He will have to figure out in the first five minutes just how to  create space effectively.

Sterling can either play more centrally, encouraging the left-back to overlap and create more space out wide.

Or he can go wide himself as KDB and Gundogan go through the middle to exploit the gaps between the centre-backs and wing-backs.

In my opinion, it will be the  latter. City need width to stretch Lyon as much as possible. There may be some fragility at the back for City but their attacking talent will be enough.

Coming back from lockdown after watching Liverpool stroll to a Premier League title, the determination and desire will be greater than ever to end this season with a bang.

For all Guardiola has done since he joined in 2016, he was brought in to deliver the Holy Grail — a Champions League.

All the great teams have one in the bag. Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Manchester United, Liverpool.

A win for City will elevate them into that bracket. They will go all guns blazing to get it.

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