Man City shown Rodri solution vs Young Boys but midfield problem could return – Tyrone Marshall

Rodri made 56 appearances last season and clocked up 4,465 minutes on the way to the treble, but he knew that wasn&apost sustainable. He earned an enforced rest earlier this season after getting sent off but City lost all three games without him.

Whatever Guardiola tried against Newcastle, Wolves and Arsenal didn&apost work, but perhaps the absence of Rodri was only half the dilemma. Kalvin Phillips and Mateo Kovacic floundered in the holding role without him, but had they had John Stones for support then maybe it would have been a different story.

The win against Young Boys was only his fourth start since the Community Shield and he lasted just 45 minutes before suffering a recurrence of his injury. He now faces another period on the sidelines and that is a blow for City. It makes Rodri undroppable once again.

Stones&apos ability to cruise seamlessly into that deep midfield role and set a metronomic tempo for City feels vital every team he plays. You do wonder if Kovacic would have struggled so badly against Wolves at Molineux if he had support from Stones. He was putting out fires everywhere that day and was loose in possession without that simple pass that Stones so often offers. City were exposed on the counter too often and beaten for the first time this season.

Against Young Boys, Kovacic could push into a more advanced role with Matheus Nunes and Rico Lewis, with that comfort blanket of Stones behind them. Sadly for the Blues, it was just a glimpse of what he could do and his absence will have a knock-on effect for City and Rodri.

Guardiola was true to his word. If Erling Haaland is fit he will play, he said, and although he made six changes to the side that beat Bournemouth 6-1, Haaland was one of the five players retained.

Maybe the fact he got 45 minutes&apos rest on Saturday was one of the reasons he was considered to start here. There is also the issue that his most obvious replacement, Julian Alvarez, has played almost as many minutes this season and has featured in one game more than the Norwegian.

How Guardiola goes about rotating those two when they are the only two strikers at the club will be fascinating. Getting Alvarez into the side this season, in the wake of Kevin De Bruyne&aposs injury, has been beneficial but it does kind of create an issue when it comes to rotation at centre-forward.

For now, that can be an issue for another day. The decision to start Haaland was vindicated midway through the first half with a coolly-taken penalty to set City on their way and he scored a superb second early in the second half, just his third goal from outside the box in City colours.

This is now 11 seasons in a row that City have reached the knockout stages in the Champions League and they are becoming a byword for consistency in this competition.

They have lost just one of their last 23 meaningful games in the group stage of the Champions League, a 2-0 defeat to Paris Saint-Germain early in the 2021/22 competition. They lost to RB Leipzig in the final round of games in that group but had already secured qualification.

They really are making easy work of reaching the last-16 of this competition. Guardiola wrote in his programme notes on Tuesday that it was always the first aim in the Champions League, but it&aposs one City are making look easy. These days they never even reach matchday six with nerves jangling.

The sight of Phillips replacing Kyle Walker when this game was done meant that Lewis returned to his first home of right-back, but it&aposs beginning to feel like his future lies in the middle.

With Kovacic and Nunes also in the team, he often took up advanced positions in this side and once again his poise in possession and ability to just keep things moving were on show.

This wasn&apost a night when he hit the heights he did in Bern, but it was another smart, shrewd performance from an 18-year-old who is playing like a veteran.

City are now guaranteed to reach a calendar year without losing at the Etihad, having last tasted defeat here on November 12, 2022, the final game before the season broke for the World Cup.