The Warmdown: Citizens earn hard-fought victory against Atletico Madrid
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 05: Nathan Ake of Manchester City uring the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final Leg One match between Manchester City and Atletico Madrid at City of Manchester Stadium on April 5, 2022 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images)

The dust has settled on the first leg of Manchester City's UEFA Champions League quarter-final clash with Atletico Madrid, as Kevin De Bruyne ensured that Pep Guardiola's side will take a goal advantage to the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium next week.

Here are the key talking points from a largely forgettable 90 minutes of football.

Kevin De Bruyne Is The Ultimate Big Game Player

It was the introduction of Phil Foden that sparked Manchester City into life on 70 minutes, as the English youngster, who had only been on the pitch for 80 seconds, slid a inch-perfect ball in behind the Atletico backline.

Kevin De Bruyne was Foden's intended target, and it was he who took the ball in his stride before firing past Jan Oblak to break the resistance of the stubborn Atletico defence.

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It is the eighth time that Kevin De Bruyne has found the back of the net for Manchester City in the UEFA Champions League knockout stages, he has scored just three in the group stages. The script was written for the Belgian to be the hero on the night.

It is not just the big Champions League nights where De Bruyne shows his worth as a big-game player. With a goal against Manchester United in the 4-1 win at the Etihad earlier this season, KDB became the first Manchester City player in history to score or assist both home and away against the 'Big 6' (Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Spurs).

Kevin De Bruyne collected the Man of the Match award for his efforts on Tuesday night, and if the Citizens are to finally break their UEFA Champions League duct, then I doubt it will be his last award of the season. Big players step up when it matters most, and De Bruyne does it better than any other in this squad.

Simeone Ball: Effective, yes. Entertaining, no.

There has been widespread discussion surrounding Atletico and their style of play, and it reared it's incredibly ugly head again on Tuesday night.

Simeone's intentions were clear from the first whistle, to frustrate Manchester City as much as possible and ensure that they remained in the tie heading into the reverse fixture in Madrid next week.

Two banks of five were set up in front of Jan Oblak's goal, with the Slovenian keeper seemingly tasked with wasting as much time as possible in order to irritate both the opposition players and the opposition fans.

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For 70 minutes, the game plan worked to perfection and, but for some Phil Foden magic, it may have resulted with Atleti heading to the Wanda Metropolitano level. 

There's no doubting that Simeone's tactics work, he has taken Atleti to two Champions League finals in his reign so far, the Argentine has also masterminded his side to the LaLiga title on two ocassions. But whilst it may be an effective method of playing football, it is certainly not one that is pleasing on the eye.

Nathan Ake: The Unsung Hero

It's been a tough twelve months for Nathan Ake, both on a professional and personal front.

The Dutch centre-back has struggled for minutes at City since his arrival in the summer of 2020, largely due to the fine form of Ruben Dias, and the resurgence of John Stones, neither of which could have been foreseen.

In addition to this, Ake also lost his father earlier this year, a figure instrumental in Ake's life both on and off the pitch. But Ake refused to let his professional or personal heartache get in the way of his performances on the pitch.

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The Manchester City defender has been called into the first team for their last two fixtures, starting at centre back against Burnley in the absence of the injured John Stones, before being switched to an unconventional left back role against Atletico due to Kyle Walker's suspension.

He didn't put a foot wrong in either, dealing with the very little attacking threat that Atleti offered with ease, alongside a very important goal-line clearance against Burnley on Saturday afternoon.

He won't win any awards for his performances, but Ake is fast establishing himself as somewhat of an unsung hero in East Manchester.

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