Man City juggernaut thunders on as pivotal month looms for Treble chasers

Phil Foden celebrates
Phil Foden celebrates scoring City's third - Shutterstock/Nigel Keene

The great Manchester City express thunders onwards across Europe, the champions of it all with an unbeaten run that streams behind them into the year past - back to a brief moment of uncertainty that seems ever more distant.

The Champions League holders have a habit of playing when on the road as if it is they who are at home and for the most part on this night they might as well have been. With possession at 75 per cent and more than four times as many passes than the opposition – the single glimpse they gave Copenhagen of their own goal was afforded to the home team by Ederson’s mistake.

There were goals from Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva and Phil Foden, although Copenhagen will feel they got away with one. They go to Manchester in three weeks’ time with the very slimmest of chances in the second leg and it would be one of the great upsets of this modern era of the European Cup were they to pull it off. The chances are vanishingly small. City have not lost in 14 games and the winning run now stands at 11 with the only question who might stop them.

Copenhagen had previously not been beaten since Dec 6, the same day as City last lost a game – although unfortunately for the Danes, they had only played twice after that Cup defeat to Silkeborg. This night was their first game back for two months following the Danish winter break and in the interim City have played 12 games without defeat and ascended to champions of the world. At times in the first half it hardly seemed fair on the Danish club who were backed by a great crowd at the Parken but could barely put a boot on the ball.

The injury to Jack Grealish was the only shadow cast over the night for City. A muscular problem, said Pep Guardiola later, which meant the Englishman came off in the first half, having twice been kicked with those trademark runs that invite the foul from slower reacting opponents. He certainly seemed to feel the impact on both occasions, although the problem developed later than that.

The Danish champions come to the Etihad for the return leg in three weeks’ time to try their best in the midst of what is shaping up to be a monumental month for City. In March, they are at home to Manchester United three days before that Copenhagen second leg and off to Anfield four days later – with Arsenal at the end of the month and Brighton in there as well. It is their big month as they look to defend their Treble.

The rhythm of this City team is irresistible and although Guardiola likes to dwell on the challenges each individual opponent presents they can be hard to identify when City’s dominance of a game is so total. He had said that Copenhagen would be physical - and they were – and also that the enthusiasm of the crowd needed to be brought down by “one thousand passes” if necessary. In the end City completed only 786 of the 835 they attempted but the effect was just the same.

There was no goal for Erling Haaland. Mr Champions League back in the competition that made his name and presumably watching his body language after Guardiola’s warning before the game. He had some spectacular attempts, including a flying volley in the first half, airborne as if he had been fired at Copenhagen. Haaland went through in injury time at the end and had a header saved in quick succession and just when Copenhagen thought they might have got away with 2-1, Foden added the third.

With De Bruyne in the side, City looked more like a 4-1-4-1 in their basic shape with John Stones augmenting midfield in possession – which was virtually all the time. For Foden, the return of De Bruyne seems to mean he will be pushed out wide again. In De Bruyne’s five-month injury absence, Foden was more often a centrally placed attacker.

De Bruyne was at the heart of it all. In the 11th minute, Foden slipped a ball into De Bruyne in the right channel and it was dispatched with some certainty past Kamil Grabara. For the second goal De Bruyne turned something approaching a tackle into a perfectly crafted pass for Bernardo who, in turn, took his shot a beat early with a poke past the Copenhagen goalkeeper Grabara. It was all over so swiftly that there was barely a moment for the home team to think of an intervention. The just-in-time delivery was simply too sharp.

In the mounting pass-storm that Guardiola’s team generated in the first half the Danish side may have felt like they were emerging too abruptly from winter hibernation. Painful at times for this promising team who overcame Manchester United in the group stages, although they had their moment.

Copenhagen’s equaliser was beautifully taken by new signing Magnus Mattsson. Ederson’s dreadful pass straight to Mohamed Elyounoussi, formerly of Southampton, prompted a shot from the latter, blocked by Ruben Dias. When it came loose it dropped to Mattsson who dispatched it with his right foot. A blow for City but largely self-inflicted.

Silva’s goal before half-time seemed to break Copenhagen anew and they offered very little in the second half. There was a good substitute cameo from Rasmus Hojlund’s younger brother Oscar, who was unlucky to be penalised for a challenge on Haaland. The team’s top goalscorer this season, 18-year-old Roony Bardghji, did not come off the bench. After Haaland went close in a late period of pressure, Foden scored the third from De Bruyne’s pass.

Manchester City cruise to two-goal lead over Copenhagen: As it happened

10:28 PM GMT

Pep Guardiola speaking to TNT Sports

10:23 PM GMT

Phil Foden speaking to TNT Sports

10:18 PM GMT

Milestone night for Foden

10:16 PM GMT

Kevin De Bruyne speaking to TNT Sports

10:13 PM GMT

The thoughts of the TNT Sports crew

10:01 PM GMT

Goals, goals, goals

09:57 PM GMT

All over in Germany

It is full-time in the other Champions League last-16 match tonight and Real Madrid have won 1-0 in Leipzig and will take that one-goal advantage back home with them to Madrid.

09:54 PM GMT


That is it for the first leg and Manchester City will take a 3-1 lead back home with them to the Etihad for the second leg next month. Manchester City have played seven games so far this season in the Champions League and they have won all seven.

09:53 PM GMT

GOAL! Foden makes it 3-1

Moments after Haaland should probably make it 3-1, Foden does. Foden feeds it to De Bruyne inside the box on the right-hand side. He lays it back to Foden, who slots home past Grabara.

09:50 PM GMT

90 minutes: Copenhagen 1 Manchester City 2

There will be three minutes of added time at the end of this first leg.

09:49 PM GMT

89 minutes: Copenhagen 1 Manchester City 2

Over in Germany, Real Madrid still lead 1-0 with a few minutes of normal time to go thanks to former Manchester City man Brahim Diaz’s goal.

09:47 PM GMT

87 minutes: Copenhagen 1 Manchester City 2

With no-one lying behind the wall, De Bruyne goes underneath but Grabara is on hand to make the save.

09:47 PM GMT

86 minutes: Copenhagen 1 Manchester City 2

Manchester City have a free-kick just outside the Copenhagen box after McKenna, on loan from Nottingham Forest, is penalised for handball. De Bruyne to take...

09:45 PM GMT

85 minutes: Copenhagen 1 Manchester City 2

Doku gets down to the byline and sends a cross in to Haaland, who cannot get a good connection on the header and the chance is gone.

09:41 PM GMT

81 minutes: Copenhagen 1 Manchester City 2

Copenhagen are making a double change as debutant and goalscorer Mattsson is replaced by Henrik Larsson’s son Jordan. Achouri has also been replaced by Sorensen.

09:39 PM GMT

78 minutes: Copenhagen 1 Manchester City 2

Bernardo dinks a delicate cross to the far post and Haaland wins the header. His header is back across goal and lands on the top of the bar.

Bernardo is coming off for Nunes. Is that because of the knock Bernardo picked up a few moments ago or just tactical?

09:36 PM GMT

76 minutes: Copenhagen 1 Manchester City 2

De Bruyne whips in the free-kick but it is too high and lands on top of Grabara’s net. Bernardo is still limping a little after the challenge from Diks which earned the Copenhagen full-back a yellow card.

09:34 PM GMT

74 minutes: Copenhagen 1 Manchester City 2

Diks follows Falk into the book after he is penalised for a foul on Bernardo. Manchester City have a free-kick in a dangerous position on the left-hand side.

09:32 PM GMT

72 minutes: Copenhagen 1 Manchester City 2

Falk has been booked for dissent as Copenhagen are unhappy with a free-kick given for a foul on Haaland. Looking at the replays the Copenhagen players are rightly frustrated with that decision.

Erling Haaland and Oscar Hojlund jostle for the ball
Copenhagen were unhappy after Erling Haaland (left) was awarded a free-kick - Jonathan Nackstrand/Getty Images

09:30 PM GMT

69 minutes: Copenhagen 1 Manchester City 2

Doku unleashes a stinging shot having cut in from the left which Grabara saves. That had some power on that shot and it was moving.

Copenhagen are bringing on Oscar Hojlund, younger brother of Manchester United’s Rasmus, for Gonçalves.

09:26 PM GMT

66 minutes: Copenhagen 1 Manchester City 2

Doku finds Foden on the edge of the box and his shot towards goal deflects behind for a corner, which is cleared away.

09:23 PM GMT

64 minutes: Copenhagen 1 Manchester City 2

De Bruyne finds Haaland inside the penalty area but his header is easily saved by Grabara.

09:23 PM GMT

63 minutes: Copenhagen 1 Manchester City 2

Walker’s cross from the byline is blocked by Jelert and goes behind for a corner on the right which De Bruyne takes, but it is too long.

09:21 PM GMT

60 minutes: Copenhagen 1 Manchester City 2

Manchester City have a corner after a crucial tackle from Jelert to prevent De Bruyne getting on the end of a through ball to cross. The corner is played short to Foden, who feeds it to Doku, whose shot is blocked.

Elias Jelert makes important tackle on Kevin de Bruyne
Elias Jelert (right) makes important tackle on Kevin de Bruyne (left) - Matthew Childs/Reuters

Copenhagen counter and Elyounoussi crosses to the far post towards Cornelius but at a crucial moment Ake intercepts. Cornelius was stood right behind Ake and ready to unleash a volley.

09:16 PM GMT

56 minutes: Copenhagen 1 Manchester City 2

Manchester City have a free-kick near the edge of the Copenhagen box after De Bruyne is adjudged to have been fouled. Foden takes the free-kick and tries to catch Grabara out at his near post, but Grabara gets across easily.

09:15 PM GMT

54 minutes: Copenhagen 1 Manchester City 2

Rodri finds De Bruyne centrally on the edge of the box. He tries to beat Grabara at his near post but the Copenhagen goalkeeper gets down to his left to parry the ball behind for a corner, which is cleared away.

Former Cardiff striker Cornelius has replaced Claesson for Copenhagen.

09:10 PM GMT

49 minutes: Copenhagen 1 Manchester City 2

Copenhagen have the first corner of the second half on the right-hand side. The corner is headed on at the near post but Elyounoussi cannot take advantage at the far post.

Over in Germany, Real Madrid have taken the lead through a great strike from former Manchester City man Brahim Diaz.

09:05 PM GMT

Second half

We are back under way at Parken Stadium.

08:50 PM GMT

Over in Germany

There is another Champions League last-16 first leg happening tonight. Leipzig are at home against Real Madrid and the score is 0-0 at half-time.

08:49 PM GMT


That is it for the first half at Parken Stadium and Manchester City lead 2-1 at the break.

08:47 PM GMT

GOAL! Bernardo puts Manchester City back in front

Just as the game heads into three minutes of added time, Manchester City retake the lead and they have some fortune to thank. A huge deflection falls to Bernardo Silva in the penalty area and he finishes delicately first time past Grabara and into the far corner.

08:40 PM GMT

40 minutes: Copenhagen 1 Manchester City 1

Copenhagen create an opening on the left-hand side of the Manchester City box but the shot is blazed over the bar by the goalscorer Mattsson. He should have done better there.

08:35 PM GMT

GOAL! Copenhagen equalise

Who saw that coming? Manchester City have completely dominated this game but Copenhagen are level. Ederson makes a huge mistake as he gives the ball away to Elyounoussi, whose shot is blocked. It falls to debutant Mattsson on the edge of the box, who curls one into the far corner first-time past Ederson. What a fantastic finish.

08:33 PM GMT

33 minutes: Copenhagen 0 Manchester City 1

Copenhagen have a free-kick inside Manchester City’s half which they send into the box but it is easily headed away.

08:30 PM GMT

29 minutes: Copenhagen 0 Manchester City 1

Doku is found at the far post and he volleys it into the centre to Haaland, whose acrobatic effort misses the target.

08:27 PM GMT

27 minutes: Copenhagen 0 Manchester City 1

Foden has now gone down injured after he was caught late. A little bit of a naughty tackle. He is back on his feet now and looks like he will be fine to continue.

Phil Foden down on the ground after picking up a knock
Phil Foden (left) went down but was fine to continue - Matthew Childs/Reuters

08:24 PM GMT

24 minutes: Copenhagen 0 Manchester City 1

Copenhagen have barely had the ball but they have a corner on the left, which is whipped into the centre but Dias head away.

08:24 PM GMT

23 minutes: Copenhagen 0 Manchester City 1

Manchester City hit the frame of the goal. Silva dinks a cross from the byline and it deflects off Copenhagen centre-back Vavro and onto the bar. Copenhagen are fortunate to only be one goal down.

Erling Haaland has still not touched the ball but you cannot fault his body language. He has been clapping passes and geeing up his team-mates. It has been a game for him to be patient.

08:21 PM GMT

21 minutes: Copenhagen 0 Manchester City 1

Grealish has returned to the pitch but is now being replaced by Doku.

Jack Grealish goes off with a injury
Jack Grealish (left) went off with an injury in the first half - Matthew Childs/Reuters

08:19 PM GMT

19 minutes: Copenhagen 0 Manchester City 1

Tonight was Grealish’s first start since early January and he looks like he wants to continue, but Doku is already out warming up.

08:18 PM GMT

17 minutes: Copenhagen 0 Manchester City 1

Grealish has gone down and was immediately signalling to the bench. It looks like he will not able to continue.

Jack Grealish goes down injured
Jack Grealish goes down injured - Matthew Childs/Reuters

08:14 PM GMT

13 minutes: Copenhagen 0 Manchester City 1

De Bruyne’s cross nearly finds Haaland but the Norwegian striker cannot quite get his head on the end of it.

Copenhagen are caught in the Manchester City pass-storm. De Bruyne adopting some very high positions - like the one from which he scored. Stones moving into midfield when City in possession, which is virtually all the time. It feels overwhelming for the opposition because of the numbers alone. Getting the ball for any period of time feels difficult for Copenhagen currently. Crowd is still with them and they will have some period of the game.

08:12 PM GMT

GOAL! De Bruyne gives Manchester City the lead

You would say that was coming and some. Foden feeds a pass into De Bruyne into the right-hand side of the penalty area and he slots home into the far corner past Grabara. 1-0 Manchester City and they could have had three or four already. It could be a long, long night for the hosts based on the first 10 minutes.

08:09 PM GMT

9 minutes: Copenhagen 0 Manchester City 0

De Bruyne’s free-kick hits the top of the wall.

08:09 PM GMT

8 minutes: Copenhagen 0 Manchester City 0

Manchester City have a free-kick on the edge of the Copenhagen box after a foul on Grealish. De Bruyne to take...

08:07 PM GMT

6 minutes: Copenhagen 0 Manchester City 0

Big miss from Ake. Manchester City take a free-kick quickly and Silva stands a cross up to the far post. Dias meets it and his header is saved by Grabara. It falls at the feet of Ake, who you think will just slot home to give Manchester City the lad but somehow misses the target. Manchester City should be 2-0 inside the opening 10 minutes.

08:04 PM GMT

3 minutes: Copenhagen 0 Manchester City 0

Big, early chance for Manchester City. Ake whips in a pin-point cross into the centre of the box and, from just eight yards out, De Bruyne heads wide under no pressure. He should have buried that header and Manchester City should have be 1-0 up just a few minutes into the game.

08:00 PM GMT


We are under way at Parken Stadium.

07:56 PM GMT

Kick-off fast approaching

Both sides have emerged from the tunnel at Parken Stadium and we are just moments away from kick-off.

Just before the teams emerged, Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I Will Survive’ was belting out in the stadium.

Worth pointing out that Manchester City have played 12 games in three competitions since FC Copenhagen last played (on Dec 12). City have not lost any of those 12 games.

07:53 PM GMT

Reminder of the team news

FC Copenhagen: Grabara, Diks, Vavro, Claesson, Mattson, Diogo, Elyounoussi, Jelert, McKenna, Achouri, Falk.

Subs: Runarsson, Buur, Sorensen, Larsson, Cornelius, Oskarsson, Ankersen, Meling, Clem, O Hojlund, Roony, Frohold

Manchester City: Ederson, Walker, Stones, Dias, Ake, Rodrigo, De Bruyne, Bernardo, Foden, Grealish, Haaland.

Subs: Ortega Moreno, Carson, Doku, Alvarez, Akanji, Nunes, Bobb, Wright, Susoho, Lewis

07:51 PM GMT

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola speaking to TNT Sports

07:47 PM GMT

Home side getting ready

07:44 PM GMT

Over in Germany

Tonight’s game in Copenhagen is one of two matches in the last-16 of the Champions League. In Germany RB Leipzig are taking on a Jude Bellingham-less Real Madrid. We will keep you updated with any goals that go in in Leipzig.

07:39 PM GMT

Live from Copenhagen

Here at Parken Stadium the home fans were here more than an hour and a half early, in their seats and chanting. Team news is that Pep Guardiola has recalled Jack Grealish to his starting line-up, coming in for Jeremy Doku from the weekend win against Everton. Kevin De Bruyne is also back. All eyes will be on Erling Haaland’s body language, with Guardiola saying before this match that he wants his demeanour to be more positive when he does not score.

City (4-1-4-1): Ederson; Walker, Stones, Dias, Ake; Rodri; Bernardo, De Bruyne, Foden, Grealish; Haaland

07:33 PM GMT

Copenhagen manager Jacob Neestrup speaking to TNT Sports

07:29 PM GMT

Facing Copenhagen

By Mike McGrath in Copenhagen

It will be a step into the unknown for Manchester City as they are a playing against a team who have not played recently and have new signings such as Scott McKenna, who was signed from Nottingham Forest in the January transfer window. Pep Guardiola name-dropped Slovakia centre-back Denis Vavro as a player he admires and he is not expecting an easy evening. The grass at Parken looked long on the eve of the game, which could make City’s slick passing more difficult.

“They are starving to compete and hungry and have full energy and fresh legs and mind but I don’t know the rhythm,” said Guardiola.

“They have had lots of time to prepare the game.”

But the big difference now, for Guardiola, is that there is an expectation that City will be competing for the big prize at Wembley in June.

“When I arrived eight years ago I had the feeling maybe this competition was too much for us, in our defeats and bad moments helped us to grow up and be in the position we are - two finals and one semi-final in the last three years - and the whole club has awareness that we can try to be ourselves,” he added.

“Before, I felt ‘are you sure Pep? Are we ready to do it?’ Now the whole organisation believes we can do it. This is the best legacy that we give to the club and to the team that Man City can compete. That is so good.”

07:25 PM GMT

Grealish starts

07:21 PM GMT

Haaland told to improve body language

By Mike McGrath in Copenhagen

Pep Guardiola has told Erling Haaland to improve his body language during games when he fails to score. The Manchester City manager expects his team to “suffer” in the hostility of Parken Stadium on Tuesday and wants the demeanour of his striker to reflect the belief of the club in the Champions League.

The Treble winners touched down in Denmark wary of opponents who have been on a winter break for two months but have the ability to match Bayern Munich or defeat Manchester United as they did in the group stage. Should it not go City’s way immediately, Guardiola hopes Haaland does not let it show.

His striker was out for almost two months with a broken foot and Guardiola described Haaland as “bored” while on the sidelines, and his frustration was shown in comeback games against Burnley, Brentford, then 71 minutes at the weekend facing Everton before eventually finding the net.

“He has to learn that if he doesn’t score he has to have this right body language. He has to have this mood where he’s positive and he’s saying ‘ok it will come, it will come’,” said Guardiola.

Manchester City striker Erling Haaland during the game against Everton
Manchester City manager has called on Erling Haaland (pictured) to improve his body language - Rich Linley/Getty Images

“His body language in the first half [against Everton] was not good. The second half was much, much better. For him when he scores a goal, his mood is different. After it he makes more movements and everything. He’s better.”

The goals have always eventually come to Haaland, with Guardiola pointing out that his numbers are better than Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi when they were his age. But his team are also defined by how they carry themselves in the tough moments during matches.

“He is defined on goals but it is not just that, as much as so many games it’s how he is clapping, encouraging his mates and the first intense press,” Guardiola said. “This is what we need from Erling. We cannot forget he has been two months out, which is a lot of time with a guy who is so tall. Back to dynamic is not easy and he’s a huge competitor who wants to score goals.

“Body language is everything in life. You cannot be happy doing your job or improve if you are not positive in your mind and accept you can make a mistake and accept your mate can make mistakes. These things are far beyond tactics. If you don’t train with a big smile thinking you can do better. It’s how you face the problem to overcome it immediately. There are always gaps to improve.

“I don’t expect 90 minutes will be comfortable. There will be moments when we suffer. In these moments will we be sad and depressed or react? Every player deserves to have good moments. How you handle those moments is what defines a big team. This is what we have done in the past and we have to do it again.”

07:16 PM GMT

Full team news

Tonight marks Copenhagen’s first game since their winter break. Former Liverpool goalkeeper Kamil Grabara starts whilst Oscar Hojlund, brother of Manchester United striker Rasmus, is on the bench alongside Swedish teenager Roony Bardghji.

FC Copenhagen: Grabara, Diks, Vavro, Claesson, Mattson, Diogo, Elyounoussi, Jelert, McKenna, Achouri, Falk.

Subs: Runarsson, Buur, Sorensen, Larsson, Cornelius, Oskarsson, Ankersen, Meling, Clem, O Hojlund, Roony, Frohold

Manchester City make four changes from the win against Everton at the weekend with Kevin de Bruyne among the starters. Kyle Walker, Bernardo Silva and Jack Grealish also come into the starting XI.

Manchester City: Ederson, Walker, Stones, Dias, Ake, Rodrigo, De Bruyne, Bernardo, Foden, Grealish, Haaland.

Subs: Ortega Moreno, Carson, Doku, Alvarez, Akanji, Nunes, Bobb, Wright, Susoho, Lewis

07:12 PM GMT

Home side arriving

07:09 PM GMT

Visitors arrive

07:05 PM GMT

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07:03 PM GMT

Copenhagen team news

06:51 PM GMT

Manchester City team news

06:50 PM GMT

Match preview

The Champions League round of 16 kicks off tonight as defending champions Manchester City travel to Denmark to take on FC Copenhagen in the first leg.

Tonight marks Copenhagen’s first game in two months due to their winter break. Their last match was at home against Galatasaray, which they won 1-0 to qualify for the knockout stages. Their last league match was in early December.

Despite not playing a competitive fixture in two months, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is expecting a hungry Copenhagen tonight.

“I’m happy to be here [at this stage of the competition] as we’ve done our job in the group stage. Now, it’s back to business. In the last 16, you maybe don’t yet have the rhythm. We have seen what they can do against Man Utd and Galatasaray in a really tough group.

“Tomorrow will not define the tie as we will have to finish it in Manchester. They will be starving to compete and full of energy [first competitive game in two months]. I don’t know what their rhythm will be like but hopefully we will be at a good level to compete.”

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola addresses a press conference
Manchester City travel to Copenhagen tonight in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie - Liselotte Sabroe/Getty Images

The two sides have met on four previous occasions in the Champions League, with both games in Denmark ending in a draw.

“We had qualified when we were last here so this is different. The crowd are so close here and I have a huge respect for them. When I saw what they did in the group stage, I thought ‘wow’. We have to be prepared mentally. We have to be ready to suffer as it will be a tight, tight game. Normally, my gut doesn’t lie to me.”

Manchester City won all six games in Group G as they sailed into the knockout stages. Copenhagen finished second in Group B behind Bayern Munich on eight points, finishing ahead of Galatasaray and Manchester United.

The last time Copenhagen faced a side from Manchester at the Parken Stadium was in the group stages, when they won a dramatic match 4-3 against Manchester United back in November.

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