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Man City have a new first choice centre-back after Shakhtar win

Man City have a new first choice centre-back after Shakhtar win


Manchester City beat Shakhtar Donetsk in their opening Champions League group game thanks to goals from Riyad Mahrez, Ilkay Gundogan and Gabriel Jesus.

Fernandinho stars in new-look defence
If Manchester City are in the middle of a defensive crisis, nobody told Fernandinho.
Going into the Champions League win over Shakhtar, City were without Aymeric Laporte and John Stones, leaving Nicolas Otamendi the only fit senior centre-back.
Pep Guardiola insisted his side would deal with it, but he still had to face questions over whether Fernandinho - the logical fourth central-defender - would be able to cope with the new role.
Fernandinho led City out in Kharkiv, and looked like he had been playing in defence all his career. He was understandably protected by his teammates, but he was composed on the ball and always well positioned to make up for any questions over his pace.
The Brazilian was not really tested aerially, and his fitness will be a concern if he's asked to play twice a week for the next month, but on this showing he will surely be first choice at the back in the coming weeks.
Shakhtar Donetsk 0-3 Man City
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Mahrez shows his importance
It feels like Riyad Mahrez has a point to prove whenever he starts, such is the competition he faces for a place on the wings.
Against Shakhtar, he was lively throughout and made his mark with a well-taken goal and brilliant assist.
If his perfectly-timed run to react to Ilkay Gundogan's shot off the post was not impressive enough, it was his play for City's second goal that might show he is learning about the role he must play for Guardiola.
As City were building the move on the left, Mahrez was deputising at right back as Kyle Walker jogged back from a foray forward. The pair waited until it was safe to swap back, and Mahrez set off towards the goal. He was immediately found by Kevin de Bruyne, took the ball in his stride and fed Gundogan to score. It was a goal that will please Guardiola for Mahrez's defensive awareness as much as his lovely assist.
Another Guardiola line-up surprise
All eyes were on the defence as the starting XI was revealed before the game, with Fernandinho getting the nod as expected. But there was still room for a surprise from Pep Guardiola as he stuck with Kyle Walker at right-back rather than Joao Cancelo.
The £60m signing is yet to start a game for City, and it would have been a perfect environment to start the former Juventus man in Kharkiv, especially after Walker's indifferent performance against Norwich last time out.
But Cancelo was left on the bench once again, and Guardiola appears to be giving Cancelo as much time as possible to get used to City's game plan. The problem is, time is not on City's side after the injuries to John Stones and Aymeric Laporte, and Cancelo has to be thrown into action sooner rather than later. If not, what was he bought for?
Pep Guardiola explains Man City defence selection for Shakhtar Donetsk game
Walker's message to Guardiola
With the calls for Cancelo to start growing every match, Kyle Walker is a man fighting for his place. Against Norwich he was poor, and could not have grumbled if he had been named on the bench in Kharkiv. But Walker was given another chance, and he played like someone ready for the fight.
Before the match, Pep Guardiola was asked whether Walker could start in the centre during the coming weeks, and the answer was cryptic.
"We don’t have many," the manager said of his options. "But we have a few (options). It depends on the player and the commitment of the player to play in different positions, and if he can do it in the best way for the team."
Walker has played a similar role for England, but was vocal in his desire to make the right-back position his own. Now, his places for club and country are at stake, and it might not be a coincidence that his performance has risen. There is certainly no doubt over his commitment to playing at right-back.
Shakhtar Donetsk 0-3 Man City
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City send warning to the Premier League
As with any City defeat, the reaction might have been a bit exaggerated after the Norwich loss at the weekend. But Pep Guardiola probably will have preferred an easier game than a long trip to Shakhtar as their first chance to return to winning ways.
John Stones' injury had the potential to disrupt City even more, but it was a completely professional performance from the first minute in Ukraine.
Against Norwich, City's attitude was rightly questioned, as the Canaries worked harder to a man to earn a deserved win. But City cannot be accused of a lack of effort in Ukraine, as every player put in a shift in a potentially tricky environment.
It bodes well for City, who have a record of standing up to the challenge when the odds are against them.
Here, not every pass found it's intended target, but if City play with the desire they showed in Ukraine, any Premier League side looking to replicate Norwich's feat from last weekend might be in for a shock.

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9jastarMedia: Man City have a new first choice centre-back after Shakhtar win
Man City have a new first choice centre-back after Shakhtar win
Man City have a new first choice centre-back after Shakhtar win
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