After an 8-week hiatus, the Champions League is back. The Blues landed in Germany today ahead of their match against Schalke tomorrow night. City will be looking to gain an advantage in Gelsenkirchen ahead of the return fixture at the Etihad in three weeks.
Pep Guardiola’s team will seek to grab a few away goals and be solid at the back in this crunch European tie. If City succeed in Germany, they will fancy their chances of progressing to the quarter-finals. Schalke have only scored 6 goals in the Champions League this season, compared to City’s 16, making the Blues the 2nd highest scorers in the competition. PSG are the only team to have scored more with 17 goals.
The German side have struggled domestically of late, picking up only one point in their last three Bundesliga games. The Blues, however, will be going into the match full of confidence after a great result in the FA Cup and having rested some of their key players.
City will field a strong, solid side at the Veltins-Arena. There is a good chance that Guardiola will start players with Bundesliga experience, so we could see a return to the starting line-up for club captain, Vincent Kompany, formerly of Hamburg, along with ex-Wolfsburg player, Kevin De Bruyne and former Borussia Dortmund midfielder, Ilkay Gundogan. City winger, Leroy Sane, also has a great chance to keep his place in the side and return to the ground where he became a teenage sensation in Germany.
Guardiola also, of course, has vital experience of the German game with his three years at Bayern Munich where he won three consecutive Bundesliga titles playing mesmerising football. Despite his incredible achievements, the Catalan was criticised in some parts for his failure to secure a Champions League for the Bavarian side.
On his return to Germany, Pep will be desperate to get a result and help his chances of bringing the Champions League to the Etihad this year. It would be the first ever for the Blues, and the first for Guardiola without Messi, Xavi and Iniesta.
It is now time for his current crop of superstars to perform on the European stage.
John Stones and Gabriel Jesus both picked up knocks against Newport County so did not make the trip to Germany. Benjamin Mendy is still not fully fit after his lengthy absence so also doesn’t make the squad. Fabian Delph and Claudio Bravo are still injured.
Ederson will look to keep a clean sheet against low-scoring opposition and keep the ball moving at the back.
In defence, expect a total shake-up of the back four with Vincent Kompany partnering Nico Otamendi at centre-back, with Kyle Walker and Aymeric Laporte returning to the line-up at right and left full-back.
Fernandinho will be back to play pivote, with former Bundesliga players Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne just in front of him in the two no. 8 positions.
Leroy Sané will aim to exploit his former club Schalke down the left wing with Portuguese winger, Bernardo Silva, playing on the opposite flank.
Sergio Aguero will return to lead the line with his dyed blonde hair, hoping to add to his tally of only two goals in Europe this season.
ON THE BENCH…
City youngster, Phil Foden, will unfortunately have to drop to the bench alongside David Silva, Danilo, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Riyad Mahrez – all of whom were fantastic in the FA Cup at Newport. Raheem Sterling will also start from the bench and will be joined by young goalkeeper Aro Muric.