Manchester City are about to embark on one of the most important weeks in their recent history.
But first up, on Sunday, is an FA Cup fifth-round game against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Manuel Pellegrini has suggested he could play a weakened side, with progress in Europe clearly his priority. Despite Dynamo Kiev being just about the weakest side left in the draw and having the safety net of a second leg, Pellegrini still feels protecting his best players prior to the game against the Ukrainians is a priority.
“We couldn’t play on the Saturday for some reason, so we will put out the best team we can,” Pellegrini said on Friday.
“It’s a big problem—it’s not so big if we could have played on Saturday. On Sunday it’s a major problem.”
Chelsea have not been anywhere near their best this season, but they’ve improved significantly since Guus Hiddink took over from Jose Mourinho in December.
The players have let themselves down for much of the campaign. However, in Willian, their 27-year-old Brazilian attacker, they have a player who has performed with distinction, no matter how poor the team has looked.
He, perhaps more than any other player in the Chelsea squad, would enrich the City squad and add qualities they sometimes appear to lack.
Jesus Navas is a vastly underrated member of Pellegrini’s squad. He provides energy and pace to the right-hand side of City’s attack. Despite the arrivals of Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne in the summer, Navas, 30, has still had a key role this season, playing 34 times in all competitions.
Willian would represent an upgrade on the former Sevilla winger. He’s three years younger with much more variety to his game. Whereas Navas plays in one narrow strip of the pitch, Willian is capable of operating in a central role and even on the left, with quality running through everything he does.
There are few weaknesses in his game. He is quick and strong. He dribbles superbly and has a confidence that makes him difficult to stop. He has a superb range of passing and take free-kicks. His work rate is phenomenal.
He blends flair and attacking quality with the kind of discipline and stamina needed to excel in a Pep Guardiola side. Guardiola, who will take over at City in the summer, places huge demands on his players. Technical quality isn’t enough—a desire to win and carry out the manager’s instructions to the letter is an absolute prerequisite.
The Chelsea star would fulfil the brief. He's a dynamic player, full of energy and purpose when in possession and determined to win the ball back when his side loses it.
He would add some useful attributes to the City squad. Other than De Bruyne and Aleksandar Kolarov, there are a lack of players in the City side prepared to take shots from distance. Willian has genuine quality when trying his luck from outside the area.
And his pace and dynamism means he comes into his own when a side is playing on the counter. In the Premier League, being able to break at speed is crucial. Some of City's best football has come when they soak up pressure and move forward quickly when they win the ball. Few players in the Premier League can match Willian for his ability to play that style.
Chelsea may have struggled this season, but Willian is exempt from criticism; he's been superb and has enhanced his reputation. If City could pick one Chelsea player to add to their ranks, surely he would top the list.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2015/16 season. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow him on Twitter @RobPollard_.
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