Venue: Arena Națională
Date: 16 August 2016
Referee: Daniele Orsato
Kick off: 19:45
Manchester City are to kick off their Champions League campaign in Bucharest as they face Steaua Bucuresti in a two-legged play off round.
This will only be Pep’s second competitive game in charge of City, and will be his chance to qualify for the competition that he won twice at Barcelona.
City will be without a range of players after Pep decided against taking them to Romania, a list that includes Yaya Touré and Jason Denayer who were both left at home despite being selected in the original squad. Both Ilkay Gundogan and Leroy Sané haven’t travelled either, however this is due to their current injuries.
Samir Nasri, Eliaquim Mangala and Wilfried Bony all miss out after they weren’t selected within Pep’s 21-man squad and are seemingly out of the Spaniard’s plans this season, however Nicolas Otamendi returns from an injury that kept him out of Saturday’s Premier League fixture against Sunderland.
Joe Hart was dropped over the weekend by the new boss and Willy Caballero is likely to keep his place between the sticks.
For me, it’s a game with somewhat a weird feel around. Steaua won’t be pushovers, that’s for sure. The national stadium hosts just over 55,000 spectators and the game is a sell-out which is sure to create a fierce atmosphere.
It’s a massively important and defining 90 minutes in the upcoming season, a game that will have an impact on whether Pep Guardiola’s men will feature in Champions League football this season – despite this, for me, it feels like an unimportant friendly – but it shouldn’t be that way.
And Steaua manager Laurentiu Reghecampf is ready for his side to provide an upset:
“Even if we face a big team, even if we face the best coach in the world with fantastic results, it is a huge chance for us to prove ourselves. I am very confident that we will qualify for the group stage again. We have a strong team and the match starts at 0-0.”
And the City boss doesn’t dispute that the match won’t be an easy one for his side:
“I have seen a lot of Steaua games and I am very impressed with what they do. We are going to try and score goals and try to convince the players how important it is to play in the Champions League and how beautiful it is and we are going to try and win it.”
I’m feeling optimistic ahead of this one and hopefully my prediction doesn’t backfire. We’ve got the second-leg to rectify any mistakes or build upon a lead, but personally I feel we will be doing the latter. My prediction is a 2-0 win.
Predict the score:
[statsfc-score-predictor key=”D8SJIk7F6vySBuDaFQRSHy11xfbyCt18uXRinj2b” team=”Man City” date=”2016-08-16″ default_css=”true”]