Manchester City's Raheem Sterling and Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski have been their sides key men this season

Champions League: Manchester City and Bayern Munich justify status as favourites with ruthless last-16 performances

Heading into their last-16 second legs, Manchester City and Bayern Munich were joint-favourites to win the Champions League - their performances showed why, but one more than the other.

When the final whistle blew at the Etihad on Friday night, Manchester City's players ought to have been soaked to the skin but they had hardly broken sweat.

On a balmy, sticky evening in the North West it felt like Pep Guardiola's side took a major step towards entering Europe's footballing elite. To truly do so they simply have to lift a first Champions League trophy, but it was the nature of this victory that was noteworthy; it was run of the mill.

Real Madrid - 13-time European champions and winners in 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018 - were completely outclassed by a team whose best performance in the competition came when they submitted to Real in the 2016 semi-finals, seemingly happy to escape with a 1-0 aggregate defeat - oh how things have changed in four short years.

Back then Manuel Pellegrini was in the final weeks of his Etihad tenure, while Zinedine Zidane was about to take the first step towards an unprecedented three straight Champions Leagues triumphs.

When Guardiola arrived at Etihad Stadium that summer, it was under the widely-held assumption that his overriding task was to bring the European Cup to east Manchester - the one trophy to thus far allude the club's Abu Dhabi-based owners since their 2008 takeover.

His first three attempts saw a resounding quarter-final defeat by Liverpool sandwiched by surprise last-16 and last-eight exits to Monaco and Tottenham respectively. Now the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach his best chance to deliver that holy grail.

But one of his former clubs is standing in the way.

Champions League 'final eight' schedule

  • August 12: Atalanta v Paris St-Germain
  • August 13: RB Leipzig v Atletico Madrid
  • August 14: Barcelona v Bayern Munich
  • August 15: Manchester City v Lyon
  • August 18: Atalanta/PSG v Leipzig/Atletico
  • August 19: Barca/Bayern v Man City/Lyon
  • August 23: Final

All matches 20:00 BST kick-offs in Lisbon.

If Manchester City's performance against Real was not eye-catching, Bayern's demolition of Chelsea was.

Over two legs, Hansi Flick's men exposed the defensive frailties that saw Frank Lampard's side concede more goals than any other team in the Premier League's top half this season. By that token, scoring seven times in two matches against Chelsea isn't that impressive - it was.

First all of all, the ruthless nature of the German champions' second leg performance was frightening. Despite heading into the it 3-0 ahead thanks to a profitable trip to Stamford Bridge, there was simply no let-up.

Within 25 minutes at the Allianz Arena it was 5-0 on aggregate.

The one minor blemish in 180 minutes of imperious football came when an error from goalkeeper Manuel Neuer allowed Tammy Abraham to score late in the first half, but the emphatic response was two more goals after the break.

Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski's 2019/20 heat map

As has been the case for much of Bayern's incredible season under Flick, they have won 30 of 33 games since he replaced Niko Kovac in November, one man was a cut above.

Robert Lewandowski earned a penalty, converted it and then provided a further goal and assist. In a Bayern team that functions so perfectly, there is no-one more expert in their field than he is.

The Poland captain's outstanding numbers - 54 goals and eight assists in 45 Bayern appearances this term - are as much a reflection of his incredibly defined role in a world class team, as it is his own world class goal-scoring ability.

In an era where merely being a striker often doesn't cut it with managers, and at times is even sneered at, Lewandowski is rightly lauded for his ability to combine technical quality and modern-day athleticism with a natural instinct and old school robustness.

He is the perfect number nine, and no-one has quite worked out how to stop him.

Champions League winner: Sky Bet odds

  • Manchester City - 9/4
  • Bayern Munich - 3/1
  • Paris Saint-Germain 11/2
  • Barcelona - 7/1
  • Atletico Madrid - 8/1
  • Atalanta - 12/1
  • RB Leipzig - 20/1
  • Lyon - 40/1

Odds correct at 12pm BST 09/08

What started as a Manchester City/Bayern piece may appear to have gone slightly off-piste - it hasn't. As things stand, City are 9/4 favourites to win the Champions League. A hard-earned tag, but the quarter-final line-up is the main reason for that.

City meet rank 40/1 outsiders Lyon, with the winners facing whoever emerges from the mouthwatering last-eight tie between Bayern and Barcelona.

Barca outright odds of 8/1 is a reflection of just how much they've slipped in recent campaigns, and this season in particular under Ernesto Valverde, and now Quique Setien. For arguments sake, let's assume Bayern and City both win; I realise that is some assumption to make.

City were superb against Real, always in control without being dominant - they never needed to get out of second gear. But we cannot hide from the fact that Madrid pressed self-destruct twice.

Pep Guardiola's Man City and Robert Lewandowski's Bayern Munich are the Champions League favourites

Two cataclysmic Raphael Varane errors handed goals to Raheem Sterling, who is now on a phenomenal 35 for the season, and Gabriel Jesus to make the very difficult task of overturning a 2-1 first-leg deficit down right impossible. Is it really plausible to think Bayern will present such gifts?

Something else that shouldn't be brushed over was City's defensive fragility, laid bare by Karim Benzema.

If the City defence were looking for ideal preparation should they face Lewandowski, then Benzema is perhaps the nearest thing in European football, though not nearly as good and in a far inferior team. What should frighten Guardiola is that on a night when Real were absolutely dreadful in possession, the Frenchman still managed to stand out.

Benzema left Manchester with only a thumping first-half header to show for his work, but mustered four further attempts on goal and was twice denied by smart keeping from Ederson. Other than his equaliser, which came via an expert right-wing cross from Rodrygo, he fashioned everything himself.

Perhaps City will be better for the experience, who knows, but you suspect that even in what was a poor, aging Real team, had Lewandowski been parachuted in for Benzema then Guardiola's team might already be on their belated summer holidays.

If they do have to face Lewandowski and his world class team-mates, I struggle to see City making it through the tie unless they have a truly phenomenal attacking night themselves. Their defence simply cannot be relied upon.

Friday night was the first time since the restart that Pep has chosen to pair Fernandinho with Aymeric Laporte, without doubt his current first choice centre-back duo as contract rebel Eric Garcia looks to have been jettisoned along with the out-of-favour John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi.

If there is a shock, and City meet Barcelona in the semis instead then there is just the small matter of Lionel Messi to deal with.

His brilliant performance and outstanding individual goal in their second-leg win over Napoli was a throwback to days of old. The fact that, given the choice, City would much rather face the greatest player of all time, shows just how good Bayern are.

And that is why for me they have to be favourites, despite having the stiffer quarter-final test.

It will take a special team, or at the very least a special performance, to deny Bayern a sixth European Cup but Manchester City certainly fall into the category of a side capable of delivering that.

From a neutral perspective let's hope they're meeting in Lisbon on August 19.

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