Viktoria Plzen vs. Manchester City: 6 Things We Learned
Manchester City moved to a comfortable 3-0 win over Viktoria Plzen to get their Champions League campaign off to a good start.
It was, quite literally, a game of two halves as Manuel Pellegrini's side overcame an iffy first half to brush off the Czech side with three goals in 10 minutes early in the second half.
So what did we learn from the match?
Aguero Is the Man
Sergio Aguero was outstanding against Viktoria Plzen, fully deserving his goal, and showing that even with all the other strikers City have he will be one of the first names on the team sheet.
On this evidence Stevan Jovetic has some way to go before he can challenge the Argentine, that's assuming Pellegrini partners one of his "big men"—Edin Dzeko and Alvaro Negredo—with a trickier customer.
Aguero showed off all his tricks in the Czech Republic, proving he has assumed the mantle of City's leader of the pack.
The departures of Carlos Tevez and the high-maintenance Mario Balotelli allowed Aguero a bit of breathing room, and lacking their drama-waiting-to-happen status he's just getting on with the job nicely.
Nasri Is Finding His Feet
Samir Nasri can frustrate and delight in equal measure, but he had a decent match against Viktoria Plzen.
The space and time the France international gets in Europe (and playing for his country, for that matter) are made to measure for him, whereas the rough and tumble of the Premier League can put him off his stride.
He improved notably after the halftime break, and made the most of the hosts' allowing him to dart around and influence things.
This display will have boosted his confidence, and Man United on Sunday may be the kind of domestic match he will thrive in, rather than a tough afternoon in the Potteries like last Saturday.
David Silva may be available on Sunday, but on this evidence he may have a job getting back into the team. If he does, then Pellegrini's famed man-management skills may be needed to deal a player who could point to a good night's work tonight.
Dzeko Learning from Mistakes When It Counts
Edin Dzeko wasted a great chance to ease City's worries when he headed a pinpoint cross from Aleksandar Kolarov straight at the Plzen keeper from close range.
The Bosnian has been seen to visibly lose confidence when missing chances in the past, and for a while it looked that way tonight.
But unlike against Hull, he stayed on the pitch after halftime and responded well with the goal that set City on their way, together with a good all-round performance.
Like with Nasri, this performance will have given him a lift and put him in pole position for the derby.
Yaya Toure Is Approaching His Best Form
We have not heard much from the Ivorian powerhouse this season, but his wonderful goal signalled that he may be peaking at the right time.
He's a big-game, big-occasion player—remember those goals in the FA Cup semifinal and the final itself, that goal that inspired a vital win at Newcastle a week before the Premier League title triumph?
The derby on Sunday is a similar occasion, but tonight was no less important in its own way, and his goal put paid to any thoughts of a quick comeback from the home side.
Elsewhere he was given the room to roam and he took it, and having stretched himself nicely in this outing he can look forward to a tougher test against Man United in decent touch.
Pellegrini Selection Vindicated
There may be no such thing as a "first-choice" team anymore in these days of squad rotation, but Manuel Pellegrini knew what he wanted to do this week.
He saw Stoke last Saturday as a chance to rest main players and give some of the others not seen so much yet a chance to give him a selection headache.
Alvaro Negredo, Jack Rodwell and James Milner did not do that, and the team he chose tonight responded well even though they failed to impose themselves in the first half.
After the break was a different story, so maybe the thoughtful Chilean is a teacup thrower, despite his reputation for being an arm-around-the-shoulder kind of guy?
Whatever, his side were comfortable winners but he, and they, will know bigger tests lie in wait both at home and abroad.
Another Classic Away Kit
This was my first proper view of this kit used in anger, and I like it. A lot.
As an advocate of "less is more" (in everything), I loved the diagonal red and black combo that was resurrected a few years ago, and this new design had touches of that classic.
The two-tone stripe down the side reminded me a bit of a cigarette packet of yore (not that I'm advocating smoking), and was a masterpiece of subtlety. Compare and contrast with some of the kits you'll see across Europe this season. The horror, the horror...