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As I boarded the tram to the Etihad Campus on Tuesday evening, I was fully expecting City to claim the 3 points in their Champions League opener against Juventus. Despite the Turin outfit reaching the final of the competition last season, I looked to their failure to win a single Serie A game in 3 attempts and their considerably weakened squad – both in comparison to last season and to their potential squad for this season – as key factors. With veteran midfielder Andrea Pirlo making the move to City’s MLS-sister club New York City FC in the summer and other instrumental players like Carlos Tevez and Arturo Vidal also departing, I didn’t believe that Juventus would have the depth to contest the tie. Then there were injuries to two of Juve’s important midfielders Claudio Marchisio and Sami Khedira to take into account as well.
Yet as I got closer and closer to the terminus of the tram service, I became more and more nervous about the game, and City ultimately suffered a 2-1 home defeat, courtesy of Mario Mandzukic and Alvaro Morata, the latter of whom was incredibly instrumental in the Italian side’s incredible Champions League campaign last term. Having a flutter on the Champions League this season? Make sure you visit the top three options for UK betting here.
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City Might Regret Missing Out On Pogba
By his usual standards, the Frenchman had a pretty quiet night, yet he still managed to conjure a pretty impressive assist, lifting the ball diagonally across the box towards Mandzukic for the equaliser. Despite being largely taken out of the game by the double pivot of Yaya Toure and Fernandinho – with the help of Vincent Kompany and Eliaquim Mangala – the 22-year old showcased many of the reasons why City have been constantly linked to him for the past year.
Yaya Toure and Fernandinho themselves are 32 and 30-years old respectively, so City might massively regret their failure to lure the most obvious replacement, Pogba, to the Etihad. This is especially true since Barcelona, the favourites to sign him from Juventus, had a transfer ban this past summer.
His ability to dribble and manoeuvre between players, despite his highly physical presence and six-foot frame, was breath-taking at times, and it was hard not to appreciate the sheer stamina of the former Manchester United man in fulfilling the box-to-box rule assigned to him by Massimiliano Allegri.
His ability to dictate play across the field with a sense of unpredictability was quality; he would often sit deep when City had possession of the ball, providing defensive reassurances to the back four with his tackling ability, as well as holding back when Juventus broke forward to provide an alternative attacking outlook and to prevent City from breaking with pace. However, he could also pop-up in attacking positions himself when needed. In fact, at one point, Pogba stood just outside of the box to the left with the ball, playing around with the ball at his feet, toying with the City defenders with an almost ‘come and get it’ sort of approach.
Despite the City fans’ chants, Juve’s number 10 is certainly not ‘just a sh*t Yaya Toure’. Pogba himself responded on Twitter after the match, citing the final score to be ‘Qatar City 1 – 2 Juventus’. Shame that his geography skills aren’t as good as his football skills.