Pep Guardiola put on a tactical “masterclass” in Manchester City’s 2-1 win at Real Madrid on Wednesday night, according to former City defender Micah Richards.
City came from behind at Santiago Bernabeu to take a huge step towards the last eight of the Champions League.
Isco capitalised on some slack defending to put Madrid ahead but a Gabriel Jesus header and a penalty from Kevin De Bruyne left the away side in the driver’s seat ahead of the second leg.
Guardiola started without the likes of Sergio Aguero, Fernandinho and Raheem Sterling and opted for an unusual shape to his team, but City looked comfortable throughout the match.
"This was a masterclass,” Richards told BBC Radio 5 Live. So many times, people question Pep - to not start David Silva, Sterling, Aguero, Fernandinho - he deserves massive credit.
"Tonight, he showed that if he's not the best [coaches] in the world, he is one of the top three."
City edged the possession and had more shots and shots on target than Madrid, and were buoyed late on by a red card for Madrid captain Sergio Ramos.
Sterling returned from injury from the bench, while Fernandinho was forced on after Aymeric Laporte limped from the pitch in tears – the only cloud left hanging over an excellent night for Guardiola’s side.
England forward Sterling has been linked with a move to the Bernabeu, though Guardiola has said he has no questions over his commitment to the City cause – and Richards seems to agree.
"Raheem Sterling has not been in the greatest form of late,” he admitted.
“But he can change games with the way he runs at defenders. You can see why Real Madrid are interested in him - he walks into that side. But City have got better players than them.
"After all that happened with UEFA, this is a different City. They are working harder and working together.
“Everyone throws stones at you when you play for City, so to have that unity, it's them against the world. They are really fighting for each other."
City’s next fixture sees them take on Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup final at Wembley on Sunday.