After grabbing a point against fellow Premier League title contenders Arsenal at the Emirates on Saturday, Manchester City begin their European campaign at the home of German champions Bayern Munich on Wednesday, a second stop in this nightmarish week that sees them finish off against Jose Mourinho and his band of party-poopers at home next Sunday. Bayern themselves are coming off a 2-0 win against VfB Stuttgart at the Allianz on Saturday, and will be hoping to kick off their Champions League journey with a statement win against the English champions.
James Milner put in a masterclass performance to help City beat Bayern 3-2 after they went two goals down inside the first 12 minutes, in last year’s final group stage game here in Munich. City had to settle for second place in the group however, and went out to Barcelona over two legs in the Round of 16. Bayern made it to the semi-finals of the competition but were comprehensively beaten 5-0 over two legs by eventual champions Real Madrid.
Fernando and Stevan Jovetic are still out injured for the City team, while Pablo Zabaleta is suspended for picking up a booking in last season’s Round of 16 tie against Barcelona. Pep Guardiola will be missing Holger Badstuber, in addition to Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez, through injury.
- This is the third time in four years that City and Bayern have met in the Champions League group stage.
- The Citizens have only met Bayern on four previous occasions, with both teams winning 2 games among those.
- Centre-backs Martin Demichelis and Jerome Boateng will have swapped places at the hearts of either defense; Demichelis spent seven successful years in Munich before partnering up with former boss Manuel Pellegrini in Manchester, and Boateng spent an unsuccessful season with the Blues in 2010/11, before going on to win the Champions League with Bayern Munich.
- In 2005, it was widely reported that FC Pep Guardiola had a ten-day trial at Carrington as a player when Stuart Pearce was City boss. Unfortunately, the Blues’ faithful never got to see the two-time European champion in sky blue and Guardiola signed for Dorados de Sinaloa in Mexico instead.
- Head-to-head: MCI:2 BAY:2 D:0
Bayern Munich – Xabi Alonso
Given the injury setbacks to Javi Martinez, Thiago Alcantara and Bastian Schweinsteiger, it looks lik Bayern’s 11th hour signing – Xabi Alonso – will get a lot more playing time this winter. He isn’t a traditional defensive midfielder, like City counterpart Fernandinho, but he excels in the ‘regista’ role; his excellent vision, passing ability and technique means he will be a constant threat to City’s defence, seemingly initiating attacks out of nothing and finding space between the lines. How he deals with David Silva in the No. 10 role will be crucial in what looks to be an intriguing midfield battle, and his partnership with Alaba beside him will be crucial; the Austrian is a trained defender, has pace and can tackle. His experience at left-back has given him a good understanding of both receiving and moving the ball quickly and his ability to pass and run at pace gives him a skill that adds a dimension Alonso won’t bring; the two can complement one another quite well.
Manchester City – Bacary Sagna and Pellegrini’s left-back selection
A five-man midfield gives City the chance to include an out-and-out winger in their starting line-up; too often they lack width when they play two upfront with Nasri and Silva, who both like to drift inside, behind them. However, with either Milner or Navas set to start on Wednesday, City’s right hand side carries dangerous attacking with Bacary Sagna, City’s summer signing and ex-Arsenal full-back, making his darting forward runs in tandem with his new midfield compatriots. However, he’ll be up against the pace and power of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, both of whom like to cut in often to unleash a shot or dribble past defenders, and anything less than a perfect game from the Frenchman and either Clichy or Kolarov on the left side can result in a potential chink in City’s armor. Clichy offers that extra bit of pace and defensive solidity that sees Pellegrini prefer him in the big games, so it is likely he’ll start alongside Demichelis on the left side of their defence at the Allianz.
Projected Starting XIs
Manchester City: 4-2-3-1: Hart – Sagna,Kompany,Demichelis,Clichy – Toure,Fernandinho – Navas,Silva,Nasri – Aguero.
Bayern Munich: 4-5-1: Neuer – Boateng,Dante,Benatia,Bernat – Muller,Lahm,Alonso, Alaba,Gotze,– Lewandowski
Neither team will want to lose the first game of their European campaign, but home advantage and the quality they possess should see Die Roten edge a tense and tight affair.