Bacary Sagna is relishing the daunting task of shutting out free-scoring Monaco in the Champions League and conceded Manchester City’s rollercoaster 5-3 win in the first leg of the last-16 tie gave him little satisfaction.
A Sergio Aguero brace sparked a second-half turnaround at the Etihad Stadium last month, where City were twice behind and had to thank goalkeeper Willy Caballero for saving a second-half penalty from Radamel Falcao.
While City’s adventurous attacking approach under Pep Guardiola has won admirers this season, their defensive prowess has left a little more to be desired.
Sagna called on his team-mates to improve their communication after besting the Ligue 1 leaders last time around and last Saturday’s 2-0 win at Middlesbrough in the FA Cup quarter-finals marked a sixth consecutive clean sheet on the road in all competitions.
A freewheeling Monaco outfit boasting 123 goals this season are set to give that record a thorough examination at the Stade Louis II on Wednesday but, following talk of fighting fire with fire from both his team-mates and manager, France international Sagna is determined that City should sharpen a more miserly edge to their game.
“It [a clean sheet] will be our target,” the experienced right-back told a pre-match news conference.
To be honest, as a defender it is never pleasing to concede a goal. I was upset after the first leg because we conceded three goals. We won the game but I cannot be pleased with that.
“We have worked on that, everyone is communicating a bit more. We have six out of six away and to keep a clean sheet here is a challenge.
England centre-back John Stones endured a torrid night against Falcao and teenage protege Kylian Mbappe during the first leg before scoring the pivotal fourth goal for City and Sagna believes there is plenty more to come from the former Everton man.
“He is very young, of course. He is very talented and there is a reason why he joined City in the summer. He is part of the England national team,” he said.
“I don’t think he has shown his best potential yet but he is doing well. In training he is talking even more.
“When you join a new team it is not easy to find your first steps but I think he is doing quite well.”
Despite Sagna’s noble aims, much focus will be on the vibrant attacking talent on show in the principality, with City’s livewire wing duo Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling squaring off against Mbappe, who has scored in each of his past seven senior starts – netting 10 goals in that time.
— Leroy Sané (@LeroySane19) March 14, 2017
“I play alongside Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane every day and I see them progressing, I see how important they are for the team. They have great potential,” Sagna added.
“I follow French football and see Moanco playing every weekend. I see the potential they have. They are confident players who play with freedom and give the maximum. They are amazing.
“Mbappe is a very, very good player. Now he is compared with Thierry Henry, he plays a bit like him.
“He is young, he is 18 and I think if he continues to improve like this he will play for the national team in France.”
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