Tuesday night’s 2-0 defeat to Barcelona showcased both Manchester City’s defensive prowess and the need for Manuel Pellegrini to reinforce his back line this summer.
Pablo Zabaleta turned in a typically tenacious display, repelling wave after wave of Catalan attacks, while captain Vincent Kompany touched his imperious best.
But Martin Demichelis' rash, 53rd-minute lunge on Lionel Messi meant an early bath for Kompany’s centre-back partner and decisively turned the match. Messi converted the subsequent penalty, and Pellegrini’s game plan was torn to shreds.
To give due credit, Demichelis defended superbly up until that point, although the veteran’s form since his summer move from Atletico Madrid left the sense of an accident waiting to happen—and it happened.
Joleon Lescott was unfortunate to miss out on the starting XI having impressed during City’s weekend FA Cup win over Chelsea. But a skittish performance in possession when he came on to plug the defensive gap did much to explain Pellegrini’s ill-fated call in Demichelis’ favour.
In this context, alongside the form and the fitness issues plaguing the highly rated Matija Nastasic this term, strengthening at centre-back is a must.
City find themselves more healthily stocked at full-back. Nevertheless, injuries and Zabaleta’s sensational form have combined to stall Micah Richards’ career for almost two years.
At left-back, the competition between Aleksandar Kolarov and Gael Clichy arguably denies both men the playing time they desire.
Should either seek pastures new, Pellegrini would be left with a reasonable shopping list. The question is who should be on that list?