Richard Buxton: A defining week for Pep Guardiola and Man City
Tough triple-header throws up more familiar foes, with PSG's Pochettino up next for City boss
Just when Pep Guardiola thought he had finally seen off one nemesis, more resurface.
Manchester City's win over Chelsea last Saturday removed a troublesome monkey from their manager's back, only for more to lie in wait.
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Never will the Catalan have faced such an amalgam of enemies than when his side take on Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League tomorrow morning (Singapore time).
He was previously unstinting in a personal view of the favourites for Europe's elite club competition.
On each occasion, the answer had always proved the same: Whichever team have Lionel Messi.
Until this summer, that automatically translated to Barcelona.
Now that his former pupil is lining up for Les Parisiens, however, Guardiola has tellingly stopped short of tipping the Argentinian for the crown again under his new employers.
PSG's evolution into football's answer to the Avengers saw them hoover up its most coveted talents on a pittance as they strive for long-awaited Champions League glory.
Messi returned to training yesterday after a bruised knee and could feature in the Group A encounter - a reunion with his career's greatest influence.
But, beyond the six-time Ballon d'Or winner, the hosts still possess other players with a strong working knowledge of what it takes to truly punish Guardiola and his charges.
Georginio Wijnaldum, for instance, was formerly an ever-present in a Liverpool team that routinely inflicted crushing blows on Guardiola's City.
It was the Netherlands international's goal during their first meeting at Anfield, on New Year's Eve five years ago, which sent him into a rare and highly agitated state that extended to punching his fist into his palm in the visitors' dressing room in a post-mortem.
Sergio Ramos also requires no introduction for the City boss, after his masterful dark arts helped Real Madrid blot his copybook during a success-laden spell with Barca.
On the touchline, equally, PSG offer another timely reminder of the reigning EPL champions' shortcomings under Guardiola in this competition over recent seasons.
Mauricio Pochettino might have got the better of him just three times in their 20 meetings, but a recent face-off continues to haunt his opposite number.
Guardiola famously went through a catalogue of emotions in the 60 seconds after Raheem Sterling appeared to have struck a stoppage-time winner for City in the 2019 quarter-final, second leg against Tottenham Hotspur - only for the VAR (video assistant referee) to disallow his strike for offside.
Hindsight suggests the exasperation in sinking to his knees was at more than just the Lilywhites progressing to the next round by virtue of the now-defunct away-goals' rule.
It was a requiem for a missed opportunity.
Although nothing in football can ever be taken for granted, his imperious team would almost certainly have overpowered Ajax Amsterdam in the last four, as Spurs memorably did, to set up a final showdown with the same Liverpool side they had pipped to the title weeks earlier.
Juergen Klopp's "mentality monsters" will again lie in wait when City return to domestic action on Sunday in a showdown between the EPL's leading heavyweights; rendering City's need to make a statement of intent at the Parc des Princes even more imperative.
Any muscle memory they retain from the previous campaign's semi-final triumph against PSG has been all but obliterated by the French giants' recruitment drive produced on an impressive budget.
Guardiola's best hope is that they have similarly forgotten about the Achilles' heels of City.