Phelan confident of Man City's chances against Real Madrid despite misfiring defence

Phelan is confident that Manchester City can do well against Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League reverse leg at the Etihad Stadium on Friday.

Manchester City has a 2-1 lead from the first leg against Real Madrid.   -  REUTERS

Former Manchester City left-back Terry Phelan feels Pep Guardiola's side was let down by its defence during the 2019-20 Premier League season in which the team finished second despite scoring a league-high 102 goals.

"From the middle third to the attacking third, Manchester City was awesome. We know they're going to score a lot of goals. In the process, they leave the back door (defence) open a lot. That's where the team has to concentrate tactically and I know Pep is working on it," he told Sportstar.

READ | Man City signs Bournemouth defender Nathan Ake

"(Aymeric) Laporte's injury caused the team big trouble. Pep spent around £300m on six defenders. That's an entire team in other countries. This hasn't helped City much. John Stones hasn't been the ideal replacement (for Vincent Kompany). So Pep has to get the defence sorted soon."  

However, Phelan is confident that the Sky Blues, who finished 18 points behind champion Liverpool, can do well against Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League reverse leg at the Etihad Stadium on Friday, especially in the absence of the La Liga champion's skipper Sergio Ramos.

 

"Man City are three games away from the (Champions League) final and they're 2-1 up (on aggregate) against Madrid. In the first leg, (Gabriel) Jesus was playing on the left side of midfield with (Kevin) De Bruyne pushing forward. Pep was packing the midfield and there wasn't a fixed centre forward.

"Madrid was surprised and I think he'll do the same thing again. He may play Gundogan and Fernandinho in the centre. Real have to come all out and open up. If they do that, Man City can exploit the spaces. With Ramos being suspended, City is in the driving seat," said the retired Irish international, who had made over 100 appearances for City in four seasons from 1992 to 1995.

Manchester City has bought winger Ferran Torres from Valencia and centre-back Nathan Ake from AFC Bournemouth so far in the transfer window ahead of the 2020-21 season and Phelan is unsure how much of an impact the new signings can make.

"Nathan Ake is a left-sided centre-back for £41m. Would you have seen a top team like Real Madrid, Bayern Munich or PSG buying him? Is he going to play left-back instead of (Benjamin) Mendy? We've seen him do that for Chelsea. 

"But he's been playing centre-back for Bournemouth. May be Pep will do wonders with him. He's still young and not a finished product. This is a big step for him and he could be a good backup. However, City needs another quality centre-back," he claimed. 

Phelan is currently working as the technical director of Bengaluru-based South United football academy.   -  N. Sudarshan

 

The 53-year-old Phelan had spent his youth career with the recently-promoted Leeds United and he is extremely delighted with the club's performance under manager Marcelo Bielsa, who had showcased a remarkable 70-minute lecture of his football analysis last year after being accused of sending a spy to Derby County's training session by the outfit's then-manager Frank Lampard.

"It's fantastic that Leeds United got promoted to the Premier League after 16 years. It's a big club and I had joined it as a 12-year-old. I ended up playing with legends like Eddie Gray, Peter Lorimer, Frank Gray and Kenny Burns. The experience gave me good stead.

"The current coach (Bielsa) there has done a great job. He would have already done his homework on every Premier League team. He'll know each manager's strengths and weaknesses. Plus, he might go to a few training sessions and look over the wall," quipped Phelan, who has 42 caps for Republic of Ireland and was part of his nation's 1994 FIFA World Cup round-of-16 run.

(Watch 2019/20 UEFA Champions League from ​8 August 2020, 12:30 am onwards, Live and Exclusive only on Sony Pictures Sports Network).

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