Man City learning to 'suffer' as they scrape through latest Lyon test

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Guardiola says he needs his team to experience testing Champions League matches and that is certainly what they got from the admirable French side

Pep Guardiola has said his Manchester City side might need to suffer if they are to make the leap and win the Champions League, and in that sense Lyon have done the Premier League champions a huge favour twice this season.

They have made Guardiola's men suffer for 180 minutes, recording a win and a draw that has ultimately not jeopardised City's chances of reaching the knock-out phases, but which will give the Blues plenty to ponder as they progress in the competition.

City's 2-2 draw at the Groupama Stadium on Tuesday night secured qualification, which will provide as much relief as it will joy given they lost their opening game to this very side back in September. 

Yet if City think they got out of the woods by twice pegging back the fearless French side, they will be in for a rude awakening come the last 16 and beyond. 

Having lost to Lyon at the Etihad Stadium to Lyon in September, Guardiola said his players needed more bruising encounters to get them used to life against the big boys, the teams who will take the game to them. 

“Maybe we need to live a [difficult] moment in the competition,” he said. “The last two seasons when I’m here we qualified quite comfortably. Maybe you have to suffer in the group stage to realise and make a step forward.”

As Lyon attacked City relentlessly on Tuesday night, fans and pundits alike mused that this is what Premier League teams need to do more often. That ignores the fact that most Premier League teams are simply not built to do that, neither in terms of quality or mentality. 

Aymeric Laporte Manchester City Lyon Champions League 27112018

But across Europe there are several sides built exactly like that, who will play their own game against Guardiola's men. Teams like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Liverpool and perhaps Napoli and Paris Saint-Germain, teams that City will have to face at some point if they are to win this competition.

The elite clubs may not be quite at their best at the moment, and City may be outdoing them in terms of league performances, but, as Lyon have proven twice now, form can count for nothing when it comes to one-off meetings.

Does it matter that Lyon are second in Ligue 1 and miles behind PSG if they leave Memphis Depay, Nabil Fekir and Maxwel Cornet up front against City's back three when the Blues have the ball, and push another two players up into the forward line when Lyon are attacking?

It is that kind of bravery, blended with their quality, that has troubled City so consistently across their two meetings, and there will be more of that to come next year.

City have been without Kevin De Bruyne for both games against Lyon, it should be pointed out, though while his inclusion would no doubt improve his side, he cannot be expected to combat all of the problems that the big sides will pose.

In De Bruyne's absence on Tuesday it was hoped and expected that youngster Phil Foden would start, although given how the game panned out Guardiola could argue he was sparing the 18-year-old a baptism of fire.

Sergio Aguero Manchester City Lyon Champions League 27112018

Yet with three of the senior players ahead of him all ruled out through injury, and with Guardiola having said he is "definitely" ready for a game of this stature, Foden may well wonder when he will get the chance to show he can indeed handle the pressure.

Seeing the game pan out as it did, however, that is a mere footnote. 

Top of the agenda will be City's ability, or otherwise, to handle Europe's most dangerous sides.

There are positives, of course. Maybe the suffering has already had an effect; Guardiola wants and needs to see an improvement from his players when they are faced with adversity, and the fact they twice hit back to equalise here bodes well.

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Then again, none of this will come as much of a surprise to Guardiola, who does not believe that his side are ready to win the Champions League, in terms of the stature of the club.

But any outside observer will rightly expect this team of talented, motivated and intelligent footballers to make a serious challenge this season.

If they are to do that they will have to come through more testing nights like this. There will be more suffering to come.

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