It had been billed as a potentially tricky tie for Manchester City. Sporting had shown their quality by pipping Borussia Dortmund to last-16 qualification in the group stage. They had only lost once at the Jose Alvalade Stadium in the previous five months.
But Pep Guardiola’s side could hardly have made it look easier. As they rattled in the goals in the first half – two from Bernardo Silva and one each from Riyad Mahrez and Phil Foden – the beleaguered hosts could only watch in despair. The gulf was vast.
Raheem Sterling’s stunning strike, curled into the top corner after the break, made it the joint-biggest victory by any side in the history of the Champions League knockout stages and further underlined why City are considered favourites to lift the trophy.
They fell painfully short last season, their 1-0 loss to Chelsea in Porto ensuring their first Champions League final appearance ended in heartbreak. But there has been little evidence of a hangover this season. In fact, they look more determined than ever.
City scored 18 goals in the group stage, including four in two games against Paris Saint-Germain, both of which they won, and with Sterling’s fifth against Sporting, they reached 200 in the competition. They are the 14th side to hit the milestone but none have done it in fewer games (97).
The statistics show how City have established themselves in the competition but is this the year they finally grow on and claim the prize they covet most? Recent evidence suggests they are entitled to feel optimistic about their chances. The City machine chugs on.
In many ways, Tuesday night was the ideal Real Madrid audition for Kylian Mbappe, the coveted PSG striker whose contract runs out at the Parc des Princes at the end of June.
The Parisians are desperate for their France international to stay in the capital, while Real are equally keen for the 23-year-old to be their next Galactico.
After his match-winning display, surely Real president Florentino Perez will be doing everything in his power to convince Mbappe, who has now has been directly involved in 52 goals in 52 Champions League appearances (32 goals, 20 assists), to move to Madrid this summer.
The quick-footed forward was the best player on the pitch by a mile, and that is saying something when you look at the two star-studded line-ups – and the benches – and is exactly the type of player Real need to reinvigorate their ageing side.
If the World Cup winner plays another starring role to help knock Madrid out of Europe next month, do not be at all surprised if you see him in the white of Real next season.
Bernardo Silva scored twice on his return to his hometown. Riyad Mahrez netted for the sixth time in the Champions League this season. Raheem Sterling followed up his hat-trick against Norwich on Saturday with arguably the best goal of the night.
But Manchester City’s 5-0 thrashing of Sporting was a reminder that their true strength lies in the collective.
Pep Guardiola’s men suffocated Sporting, ensuring the hosts did not even muster a shot on target, and when they ripped through them at the other end, they threatened from every conceivable angle.
Remarkably, their 15 shots on goal over the course of the 90 minutes were shared between 12 different players. With the exception of goalkeeper Ederson, every one of their starters registered a shot. Even Oleksandr Zinchenko tried his luck after coming off the bench.
Sporting could not cope with Sterling’s directness. They were flummoxed by Silva’s movement and stung by Mahrez’s dribbling. But even when those players weren’t troubling them, others were. It is how City do it. Their collective brilliance could take them all the way.