June 6, 2023

Manchester City manager made three substitutions to change the course of their quarter-final clash with Atletico Madrid

Pep Guardiola hailed “special” Phil Foden for providing the quality that broke down Atletico Madrid’s stern resistance in the Champions League quarter-final. The 21-year-old stepped off the bench to provide the killer pass for Kevin De Bruyne’s winner, giving the Blues the edge for next week’s return leg.

But Guardiola included Grealish – part of a triple substitution along with Foden and Gabriel Jesus – in his appraisal of how the game changes once his attacking options were shuffled. Foden gave City penetration and threat wide on the right, while Grealish not on tempted Atletico into two yellow card offences but also gave them control as the visitors sought to fight their way back into the game.

City took the lead two minutes after Guardiola’s triple substitution, as Foden slid a pass down the side of the defence and De Bruyne planted it in the far corner. That delighted Guardiola, who hurled a water bottle at the ground in his celebration.

He said afterwards: “He (Foden) has a special quality. His reception is always forward, his space in the first step is massive, he has the composure to make an assist for Kevin.

“Jack for the control of the game to give continuity. They did it and they were brilliant. We spoke many times – this competition is not just 11 players.”

Foden was employed wide on the right after going on as a sub, days after he was used in a largely sacrificial role as a false nine against Burnley – one which freed the space for goals from De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan that won that match.

And Guardiola made the point that, while his side are doing brilliantly without a recognised striker, the lack of one has forced him to use players who are better in other roles. He said: “The only player that is proper there is Gabriel.

“Bernardo moves better in the wide outsides and Phil as well. But in that game we need a striker because they are so deep. They defend so well, so compact and so deep and we need the talent like Phil has shown in small spaces and we were patient because you have to be in these kind of teams.

“They can punish you on the counter-attack because they are top top players. They have so good, if you are not attacking in the right way they punish you.”

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