LONDON • A hotly anticipated staging post in Manchester City's Pep Guardiola era arrives today when Monaco visit the Etihad Stadium in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 clash.
Guardiola was appointed to take City to the next level in Europe and he has already masterminded a stirring 3-1 win over his former club Barcelona in the group phase.
But Monaco have been rampant this season, powering to the Ligue 1 summit with a tally of 76 goals that is unsurpassed in Europe's five major leagues, and Guardiola is keenly aware of the danger they pose.
"My impression from what I've seen is they're a really strong team," he said recently of Leonardo Jardim's side.
"They score a lot of goals, they are physical. Most successful team in Europe in scoring goals."
Three successive wins have lifted City to second place in the Premier League - eight points below leaders Chelsea - but Guardiola is putting all that aside to focus on Monaco.
"It (the Champions League) is the most beautiful competition to play. We have to do our best. If not, we don't have a chance to get to the next round," the City manager said at his pre-match conference yesterday.
He also had only good words for Monaco coach Jardim.
"Jardim has been a long time there so he has done a good job. I know how tough PSG are and knowing they are top, four or five points ahead of them, that argument is enough to say how good a job he has made," the Spaniard added.
Monaco have averaged 2.92 goals per league game, scoring four or more on no fewer than 10 occasions, and have already prevailed on English soil, winning 2-1 at Tottenham in the group stage.
The trip will have special significance for striker Falcao, who has rediscovered his shooting boots after two dismal years on loan with Manchester United and Chelsea.
Falcao at 31 no longer bites with the force of his Porto and Atletico Madrid days, but, aided by a customised playing schedule, he has scored 22 goals in just 28 games.
"I manage him differently to the others," said Jardim.
"Because he's a top-level player. I said at the start of the season that I was sure he'd succeed. Quality is permanent."
18-year-old sensation Kylian Mbappe, whose 11 goals this season include two hat-tricks, begins most games on the bench.
He could start, however, if Jardim elects to ditch his typical 4-4-2 formation in favour of a 4-3-3.
City are favourites to progress, but as Paris Saint-Germain's 4-0 evisceration of Barcelona last week showed, France's top clubs are no longer content to make up the numbers in the Champions League.
MAN CITY V MONACO
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