Two years on from competing for the first time in the same Champions League group, Bayern Munich and Manchester City are at loggerheads again. Munich will travel to the blue half of Manchester on Wednesday for their second match in Group D, in what promises to be a high-intensity contest between two teams expected to progress from the group.
Tactics and Line-Up
Manuel Pellegrini is likely to go with the 4-2-3-1 formation used against Viktoria Plzeň and against Manchester United in their 4-1 derby day demolition. Fernandinho and Yaya Touré provide ample defensive cover, and if Touré is on his game and feeling up for it, expect one or two bursting runs from deep to support the attack.
David Silva is hoping to be fit for the arrival of the German Champions, which could mean replacing either Samir Nasri or Jesús Navas. Both players would feel hard done by, after Nasri’s faultless derby display and Navas’ recent excellent form.
Up front, expect Sergio Agüero to play just off either Álvaro Negredo or Edin Džeko. Bundesliga fans will remember Džeko well from his prolific days at Wolfsburg. He may not have the same iconic status at Manchester City, but there’s no doubting his goal-scoring abilities and eye for a poach as Saturday’s defeat at Villa Park proved. Negredo is another fresh face to have stamped his authority on the City line up and has already built up a fan following with two goals and two assists in the league. His physicality and brute strength make him a handful for any centre back partnership, and from a fans perspective, many will be hoping to see him feature with ‘Kun’.
Despite keeping five clean sheets in eight games in all competitions, City have at times attracted criticism of their supposed defensive frailties. The weekend’s performance against Aston Villa was an example of when City’s defence can switch off and allow players time and space to hurt them. With Vincent Kompany fit however, concentration levels will be at their maximum, and City fans will be hoping the side’s defensive errors at Villa were mere blips on the radar and not a trend.
The Spine – Kompany/Touré/Agüero
Most fans and pundits will tell you that if these three play well, City play well. That was undoubtedly the case in last Sunday’s derby. Vinny Kompany was unbeatable at the back, Yaya Touré went up the gears to support the attacks on numerous occasions, and Sergio Agüero was, well, Sergio Agüero – determined, responsive, lethal, rarely does he not turn up for a big match. If these three are on their game, expect a testing time for Munich.
Some would argue that the criticism Hart has received in the last few months has been blown out of proportion. Whilst he has been guilty of a mistake or too, and his performance against Aston Villa last weekend won’t fill fans with heaps of confidence, on his day he’s one of the world’s best. Even better, that some of his best performances for City have been in the Champions League, particularly against Dortmund in last season’s home fixture. With City on the back foot, Hart pulled off some inspired acrobatics to keep the score respectable at 1-0, before City equalised late on through a Mario Balotelli spot kick. There will be periods of the game on Wednesday when the pace and power of Franck Ribéry, Arjen Robben, Toni Kroos and Bastian Schweinsteiger will create opportunities for Die Roten, so it’s important that Hart is on form to prevent a breakthrough.
Champions League Pedigree
Two seasons in, two seasons out at the first hurdle. It has been a few frustrating years in the competition for the blues, but with the makeup of Group D this season, fans are more optimistic this time around.
The team was unlucky two years ago, pipped to the knockouts by yours truly Bayern Munich and a plucky Napoli side. Last season was the one to forget, no wins, three defeats and three draws. The group was tough, but having just won the Premier League, more was expected of Mancini’s men.
The spotlight now turns to Manuel Pellegrini, the man who orchestrated Málaga’s route to the quarter finals last season, and who really should have seen them into the semis if not for the fortuitous Borussia Dortmund. He also took Villarreal to the semi-finals in 2006, so he’s no stranger to achieving great things in Europe with inexperienced sides.
What To Expect
With both sides already on 3 points and flowing with attacking confidence, expect a more even and end-to-end event than in previous encounters. City’s Champions League pedigree is still taking its baby steps out of domesticity, but after the embarrassment of last season’s disappointing campaign, Pellegrini is placing adequate emphasis on the competition’s importance. He certainly isn’t prioritising it by any means, but rest assured, he will set out against Bayern to attack with intent in order to go top of the group. A home tie against the group favourites in the second game is the perfect fixture, especially with a win already in the locker.
27/09/11 – Bayern Munich 2-0 Manchester City – (Allianz Arena)
07/12/11 – Manchester City 2-0 Bayern Munich – (Etihad Stadium)
Header courtesy of Telegraph.co.uk
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