Venue: Etihad Stadium
Date: 14 September 2016
Referee: Björn Kuipers (NED)
Kick off: 19:45
It’s that time again. The competition that has famously made itself difficult for City over the years returns tomorrow night. The UEFA Champions League.
On the back of being drawn in another very challenging group though, City will be feeling upbeat and optimistic following an exhilarating derby win on Saturday. So what is there to look out for?
Our German Counterparts
City have this habit, it basically entails drawing teams in the group stage of the competition that we’ve drawn before. Sometimes it feels like our British peers in the competition manage to snag fresh, new draws every year; whereas City are usually left with Bayern Munich, CSKA Moscow or in this case: Borussia Mönchengladbach. So what happened last year? Well, the game in Germany was a bit of a funny one. City were battered at times in the first half, Mönchengladbach missed a penalty and it was Joe Hart to the rescue on more than one occasion to keep City in it. The Blues eventually found themselves one down, which seemed to be the kick up the backside that they needed. Following an equaliser midway through the second half, Sergio Aguero was gifted the opportunity to score a penalty and take home all three points. He obliged, and on the back of a difficult game, City were victorious.
Surely the home game was a lot more straightforward? Wrong. On this occasion, it was City who took the lead, only to surrender it. Finding themselves 2-1 down in a game that wasn’t vital to qualification, but would turn out to be essential in finishing top of the group, they needed a spark. Raheem Sterling provided it. A quick-fire double from the English winger, followed by a rare goal from Wilfried Bony meant not only that City won the game, but topped the group ahead of Juventus. What’s in store for our double against our German opponents this round? Time will only tell.
It might feel as if the wait to see some of our new boys has been eternal, you wouldn’t be wrong. Leroy Sané and Claudio Bravo both made debuts at Old Trafford on Saturday, met with perhaps mixed reviews. Bravo had looked comfortable in the game, up until he failed to deal with a long ball to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, which led to United’s solitary goal. From that point onwards, the Chilean struggled. His passing remained relatively strong, but his decision-making was questionable. Leroy Sané on the other hand, entered the fray and looked calm and composed. Granted, his end product wasn’t always sharp and productive; but for a young guy playing his first half hour or so of the season, that can be forgiven. Both players should feature on Tuesday night against Mönchengladbach, perhaps in the first XI.
Another new Blue hoping to make his home debut (and debut altogether) will be Ilkay Gündoğan. The first of City’s new signings this summer gone-by, it has felt like forever waiting to see the clever German midfielder take to the pitch. With Pep faced with a more or less fully fit squad, the painkillers will need to be at hand for the selection headache he faces.
Pep’s First City Test in the Champions League
You’d have been forgiven for thinking that the two-legged tie against Steaua Bucharest would’ve been a challenge. In the end, it wasn’t. City won the tie 6-0 on aggregate despite being half asleep for much of the second leg. So, as it is, this will prove to be Pep’s first Champions League challenge with City. Mönchengladbach are no dopes, and despite a 3-1 loss at the weekend, they will present City with problems. The question is, how will Pep play it? Will we see a largely similar setup to the way Guardiola has us playing in the league? Or will it be a new system for a totally different competition? Both are a possibility.
Whilst City have been playing well in domestic competition thus far, European football is a totally different animal. Teams are a lot more technically astute, generally speaking. That being said, Guardiola’s football so far has boasted European panache. City have looked excellent in possession, movement has been a prominent part of a winning formula, with dynamic player roles active throughout the side. One would think that this style of play more than suits European competition, and I expect Pep to demand a similar level and style of performance that has been present so far in the Premier League.
Who Can Hurt Us?
I like Mönchengladbach’s Brazilian forward Raffael. He caused City problems in both fixtures last season, scoring at the Etihad Stadium in his side’s 4-2 loss. He’d have scored in Germany too, if it wasn’t for Joe Hart’s penalty save. Not to mention a string of additional saves that Hart made from Raffael himself, or chances the Brazilian had created for his teammates.
I’m expecting a strong opening performance for new-look City in Europe. With Sergio Aguero back up top for the Blues, I don’t see anything other than a home win. I’m certain it won’t be easy, but on current form you’d have to save City look hard to draw with, let alone beat. If everyone is firing, it could be emphatic; that’s why I’m going for a 4-1 City win to continue early season momentum.
Predict the score:
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