Manchester City 1-1 Celtic: Three things we learnt
Patrick Roberts produced a goal and an impressive all-round performance as he returned to the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday evening to help Celtic secure a second successive draw against Manchester City in the Champions League.
Roberts joined the reigning Scottish champions in January from Manchester City on an eighteen-month loan deal and his display will undoubtedly have caught the eye of Pep Guardiola.
The contest itself was relatively low-key with City having to be content with second place in the group and Celtic already eliminated and with no real chance of making the Europa League. Guardiola made nine changes to the side that lost to Chelsea at the weekend as he provided a mixture of fringe players and youngsters with an opportunity to impress whilst Brendan Rodgers fielded a full strength team for the visitors.
Most of the significant action occurred in the opening ten minutes as Roberts opened the scoring in the fourth minute with a crisp finish to give the visitors the lead before Kelechi Iheanacho equalised for the hosts. Goal scoring opportunities were at a premium and it was Celtic that wasted the best opportunities with substitutes Leigh Griffiths and Gary Mackay-Steven both failing to convert decent chances late in the second half.
Both managers appeared to be satisfied with the result but it is Manchester City that march on to the Champions League knock-out stages whilst Celtic must now focus on chasing a domestic treble without the distraction of European football.
Can Guardiola lead City to European glory?
It is impossible to judge Manchester City’s chances of winning the Champions League based on this particular game. Guardiola elected to give his fringe players an opportunity to shine and also gave teenagers Pablo Maffeo and Tosin Adarabioyo their first starts in European competition. Unsurprisingly this unfamiliar-looking City side, that had little to play for considering qualification was all but guaranteed in the last round of matches, did not produce an awe-inspiring performance full of goals and attacking creativity.
More generally the Champions League campaign so-far should give Pep Guardiola plenty of cause for optimism when the competition recommences in the New Year. Their 3-1 demolition of Barcelona at the Etihad Stadium demonstrates that this current group of players, on their day, possess the quality and personnel to match any of the leading teams in European football. However, City will need to amend the defensive frailties that saw them suffer a heavy defeat at the Nou Camp and concede three goals against Celtic in the reverse fixture.
Finishing in second place in the group usually increases the likelihood of drawing a European giant in the next round, but you sense that will be a challenge that Guardiola will embrace.
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