Security barriers are in force at Manchester City’s training ground car park, yet they present no obstacle for the club’s goalkeeper. Ederson’s Lamborghini is so low that he drives straight underneath. The man is laidback to the point of horizontal, in a quite literal sense.
Any possibility of the car’s roof clipping plastic probably never even crossed his mind the first time he approached. A relaxed confidence, a coolness personified when he saunters out of goal to play sweeper every week.
What links Ederson behind the wheel and his defence is a calm authority, judging his angles perfectly, and that is how he dealt with a bouncer yesterday. Is winning the Premier League, Champions League and the FA Cup in the same season — to emulate their great rivals back in 1999 — a realistic target?
Goalkeeper Ederson believes Manchester City can complete a historic treble this season
Ederson is not a ducker. ‘Definitely,’ he said. ‘We’re fully capable of achieving that objective. We have the quality to do it. We’ve shown it previously and are showing it at the moment.
‘We know how difficult it is. The season in England is so intense — it’s very demanding on the entire group. We look to win every competition. There are challenges, but we take it step by step and try to achieve great things.’
His boss, Pep Guardiola, did not echo that confidence, although he agreed that a treble is attainable. Guardiola was preoccupied by absentees, with just three senior defenders available for tonight’s visit of Sporting Lisbon. An unwell Joao Cancelo has joined Ruben Dias and Nathan Ake on the sidelines.
City sit six points clear at the top of the Premier League and have a five goal advantage over Sporting Lisbon in the Champions League
Kyle Walker, serving the second game of a three-match ban for a petulant kick at RB Leipzig in December, remains in the bad books. ‘I’m still so angry with him, he deserved it, he did a stupid thing,’ Guardiola said, adding that he did not agree with the club’s decision to appeal the suspension. The Catalan jokingly asked for selection solutions in his press conference yesterday. Teenage right back CJ Egan-Riley is expected to be named in the squad.
But none of it will matter in the wider view of City’s season — only the biggest shock in European history tonight will stop them progressing to the quarter-finals. Sporting arrive here needing to overturn a five-goal deficit and Guardiola could play himself at right back, really.
It will be interesting to see how many, if any, academy products are afforded an opportunity, with striker Liam Delap now fully fit. Should Delap not start, the lack of a No 9 will have no consequence but it has done in some games this term and will do so again. City are focused on purchasing Sergio Aguero’s successor in the summer, with Erling Haaland at Borussia Dortmund again their preferred target.
Manchester City will be without right-backs Joao Cancelo (left) and Kyle Walker (right) for the second leg against Sporting Lisbon
Landing Haaland ahead of Real Madrid is City’s main goal – and the January capture of Julian Alvarez from River Plate does not change that. It will be a heavy outlay: add agents fees and a signing-on bonus to the £63million release clause and the deal is likely to creep close to £100m.
That is a large chunk of any budget. The Premier League champions have wanted a natured left-sided full back ahead of next season despite Cancelo’s continued excellence, but sources have suggested that is now considered a lower priority. It is a development which could signify some form of confidence at City that they are ready to spend big on a front man.
The need for a left back does, however, remain. Arsenal’s marauding defender Kieran Tierney fits the profile of the kind of player Guardiola would hope to sign. Tierney, 24, is being monitored by Real, whose manager Carlo Ancelotti attempted to take him to Napoli three years ago.
But City – credited with interest in Abner Vinicius at Athletico Paranaense and AC Milan’s Theo Hernandez before he penned a new contract – may now opt for a less expensive option, with eyes and the chequebook fixed on Haaland.
Man City (4-3-3): Ederson; Stones, Fernandinho, Laporte, Zinchenko; Silva, Gundogan, Foden; Sterling, Jesus, Grealish
Sporting (3-4-2-1): Adan; Carlos, Coates, Inacio; Porro, Ugarte, Nunes, Reis; Sarabia, Santos; Paulinho
Referee: Halil Umut Meler (TUR)
Citizens boss Pep Guardiola is still angry with Kyle Walker for his three-match suspension
Ederson also revealed how retaining his concentration has become the hardest part of his job