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Goalkeeper crisis! Walker to the rescue but City sweating on Ederson injury ahead of Liverpool clash

5:48 PM EST 11/6/19
Kyle Walker Manchester City 2019-20
The English champions looked to be cruising to victory over Atalanta but the loss of their No.1 to an injury sparked a crazy second half at San Siro

Manchester City’s preparations for Sunday’s mammoth Premier League showdown with title rivals Liverpool went from perfect to shambolic in the space of 45 minutes at San Siro on Wednesday night.

A goal up on Atalanta thanks to Raheem Sterling's seventh-minute strike, Pep Guardiola’s men looked to be coasting to qualification for the Champions League last 16 when goalkeeper Ederson walked off the pitch at the break in deep discussion with his team’s medical staff.

The Brazilian did not return for the second half, with word later coming through that he had been taken off as a precautionary measure.

Regardless, within four minutes of Ederson being replaced by Claudio Bravo, Atalanta equalised.

Just over half an hour later, the Chilean was sent off, forcing City to finish the match with defender Kyle Walker in goal.

The England international was the unlikely hero with his late goal in Saturday’s victory over Southampton and his one nervy save at San Siro prompted almost as much joy among City’s travelling fans.

But while Walker’s ‘clean sheet’ provided some light relief, there was serious concern in the immediate aftermath of a dramatic 1-1 draw over whether Ederson will be fit to face Premier League leaders Liverpool.

He would be another huge miss for a side already shorn of the services of Aymeric Laporte, Leroy Sane, David Silva and Oleksandr Zinchenko, while Rodri is not expected to recover in time for the top-of-the-table clash on Merseyside either.

Much of the pre-match talk had centred on Guardiola resting players ahead of Sunday’s game.

However, the City boss insisted the best way to get ready for a game against high-flying Liverpool was to go with a full-strength line-up at the Giuseppe Meazza, Atalanta’s temporary European home.

Of course, of all the senior players to risk playing twice in a week, a goalkeeper would surely be the safest bet.

However, it was clear that something was not right with Ederson when he wandered over to the dugout during a Video Assistant Referee check late in the first half and had a quiet chat with Guardiola before being replaced shortly afterwards.

Whether it was coincidence or a lack of confidence in Bravo, there was no denying that City weren’t the same team in the second half.

Nicolas Otamendi, who had been accomplished in the centre of the defence, was dragged out of position and couldn’t stop Alejandro Gomez’s fine cross for Mario Pasalic's headed equaliser.

But City also lost some control elsewhere.

Benjamin Mendy had initially looked like the perfect mix of disciplined defending and intelligent attacking but started to give the ball away after the interval.

Fernandinho seemed to misplace some of his usual composure and made the odd rash challenge, while Ilkay Gundogan’s influence at the base of the midfield waned significantly.

However, the manner of Bravo’s dismissal will obvious the most concerning aspect of the second-half showing.

Whereas Ederson is so decisive coming off his line, his understudy was caught in no man’s land as Josip Ilicic chased a long ball over the top, resulting in Bravo feeling he had no option but to hack down the Atalanta forward.

Qualification for the knockout stages should have been secured in Italy after City’s dominant display in the first half.

However, poor finishing – most notably Gabriel Jesus’ tame effort from the penalty spot – coupled with Ederson’s injury has left Guardiola with more worries than assurances ahead of Sunday’s trip to Anfield.