Sergio Aguero scored twice in Manchester City’s 7-0 win at home to Schalke on Tuesday 12 March, as they moved effortlessly into the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
The importance of the striker has never been more apparent than in recent weeks, as Pep Guardiola has turned to him again and again despite their hectic schedule.
Aguero showed great calm for his first goal, coping with a VAR delay before dinking his penalty over the Schalke goalkeeper. He then displayed wonderful balance for his second, before forcing the ball into the net. Another two goals for the collection.
The Argentine’s record at the Etihad Stadium is particularly ludicrous right now. He has scored 11 goals in front of the Manchester City home supporters since the turn of the year. For context, Manchester United as a team have scored nine at Old Trafford in that period.
Aguero is absolutely pivotal for Pep Guardiola these days. The striker was even involved in the build-up to his second goal, further evidence of how he is so much more than a mere poacher in this team. He has adapted to the demands and has made himself indispensable.
No wonder Guardiola took him off after 63 minutes once the tie was won. He knows that he needs to protect Aguero if City are to maintain this improbable push on four fronts.
The No 10 has shouldered the burden so well in recent weeks.
If there is a concern, it’s that Aguero is being pushed to his limit. He has now played 999 minutes of football since 20 January. That’s a 52-day period in which he has had to play 13 times and been pressed into midweek action six times. It’s been a big ask.
Gabriel Jesus has been sat on the bench for the vast majority of those games, biding his time. The Brazilian will surely be used against Swansea in the FA Cup on Saturday 16 March and there is then a two-week break before City are back in action in the Premier League at Fulham.
The rest will be crucial for Aguero because Guardiola will need him to go again for the run-in. He has long since won the battle with Jesus to lead the line. If he can stay fit, it would be no surprise if City win the battle with everyone else to make history this season.