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Champions League recap: Manchester City hitting their stride

Free-flowing for much of the group stage, Manchester City added a killer instinct in Madrid last time out.

Kevin De Bruyne has been untouchable at times this season
Kevin De Bruyne has been untouchable at times this season Getty Images

Manchester City will be hopeful of going deep into this season's UEFA Champions League after putting in some impressive performances earlier in the campaign.

Rule changes for this season

Season so far

Highlights: Dinamo Zagreb 1-4 Man. City
Highlights: Dinamo Zagreb 1-4 Man. City

Form guide: W5 D2 L0 F18 A5
Top scorer: Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling (5)

Their campaign in ten words: Unbeaten and, at times, unplayable – a breakthrough win in Madrid?

Group C winners
Shakhtar Donetsk 0-3 Man. City (Mahrez 24, Gündoğan 38, Jesus 76)
Man. City 2-0 Dinamo Zagreb (Sterling 66, Foden 90+5)
Man. City 5-1 Atalanta (Agüero 34 38pen, Sterling 58 64 69; Malinovskyi 28pen)
Atalanta 1-1 Man. City (Pašalić 49; Sterling 7)
Man. City 1-1 Shakhtar Donetsk (Gündoğan 56; Solomon 69)
Dinamo Zagreb 1-4 Man. City (Olmo 10; Jesus 34 50 54, Foden 84)

Round of 16

First leg (26 February): Real Madrid 1-2 Man. City (Isco 60; Jesus 78, De Bruyne 83pen)

A superb performance at the Santiago Bernabéu – including Kevin De Bruyne's first UEFA Champions League goal since September 2017 – has put City in pole position to reach the last eight for the fourth time in the last five seasons.

Expert view: Simon Hart, UEFA.com Man. City reporter

City have lost their Premier League title but have warmed up nicely for this latest shot at European success – certainly judging by their 4-0 humbling of newly-crowned champions Liverpool.

De Bruyne's creative powers are the biggest reason to believe in a City side still undefeated in the UEFA Champions League yet inspiration comes from other sources too. Consider Raheem Sterling's electricity in attack, Phil Foden's growing assurance in midfield and some eye-catching cameos from Riyad Mahrez.

The outstanding display of Gabriel Jesus in Madrid is something the Brazilian (and his manager) will want to repeat assuming Sergio Agüero's meniscus problem keeps him sidelined. Yet given it's at the back that City have come undone in this competition before, a fully-fit Aymeric Laporte could be the most important player of all.

Who's in charge?

In 11 seasons as a first-team boss, Pep Guardiola has lifted eight league titles: three at Barcelona, three at Bayern and two at City. However, he claimed the last of his two managerial UEFA Champions League winners' medals in 2011.

Key quote: "We will, of course, not just be judged on the way we play but the titles we win. That is the truth. It is as simple as that."

Tactical approach

Will Sergio Agüero be fit?
Will Sergio Agüero be fit?

Anyone's guess, really. In Madrid, for example, De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva were deployed to attack centrally from deep with Jesus stationed out wide. Jesus was a surprise selection ahead of Agüero on that occasion but, with the Argentinian struggling to return this season because of a knee injury, who knows what Guardiola will come up with next? It won't be dull, that's for sure.

Star player: Kevin De Bruyne

The Belgian playmaker has elevated himself to the very top echelon this season. From his silken touch to his deceptive speed and peerless vision, De Bruyne oozes class from every pore. City's heartbeat.