Pep Guardiola, Kevin de Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Rúben Dias. To kick off our Champions League campaign we face a cast of world stars in the form of Premier League champions and last season’s UCL runners up Manchester City. In this opponent analysis, we look at the squad of the Citizens and get up to speed with their current form.
City were rather inactive in the transfer market for large parts of the summer, but shortly before deadline day they got involved – and how! Jack Grealish arrived from Aston Villa for €117 million, a record for a British club. The left midfielder, who helped England reach the final of EURO 2020 in the summer, has been involved in a goal and an assist in his last two games, both 5-0 home wins against Norwich and Arsenal. The Sky Blues also said goodbye to legendary striker Sergio Agüero after 10 seasons in Manchester and 184 league goals, who joined FC Barcelona. His greatest moment came in the final minute of the 2011/12 season, where a goal against Queens Park Rangers gave City the English top division title for the first time since 1968.
The true key player for the Champions League runners up is not actually a player, rather the footballing philosophy and tactics of legendary manager Pep Guardiola. The Spaniard instils his playing style on all of his players, and they have to get used to it. The idea that both defensive stability and attacking power have to be combined by all players is key to his game plan. This style of play led the Citizens to 83 league goals on the way to lifting the Premier League title. There are goals throughout the squad, too: last season there were seven players who scored 10 goals or more in all competitions. Interestingly, City’s top scorer last season was not a striker. With 17 goals and five assists, German international central midfielder Ilkay Gündogan took that honour.
As well as Gündogan, the English club also have the Spanish Rodri and Belgian Kevin de Bruyne in their midfield ranks, making them spoiled for choice in terms of high-class technical midfielders. The Red Bulls must also keep their eyes on the attackers; Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus and Ferran Torres are all top-class athletes and technicians. Jesus has already notched three assists and a goal in four appearances this season, whereas young Spaniard Torres has two goals and an assist so far.
In defence, the Sky Blues have Rúben Dias, a world-class centre-back who is still only 24 years old. The defender made such an impression last year that he won the Premier League’s “Player of the Season 2020/21” prize as well as the “Footballer of the Year” award from British journalists.
Kevin de Bruyne is currently recovering from an ankle injury but returned to the bench in their last game away to Leicester City.
Pep Guardiola is known worldwide as a genius tactician. He has managed some of the world’s best clubs through highly successful periods playing his brand of football – FC Barcelona from 2008 to 2012, and FC Bayern Munich from 2013 to 2016. Man City have been able to perfect his game plan and with it have won 10 titles in four seasons. The only thing missing from their trophy cabinet now is the Champions League – they lost the 2021 final in Porto 1-0 to Chelsea FC, the Londoners achieving their second UCL triumph. Guardiola spoke on Sunday about the upcoming game against the Red Bulls, saying: “The most difficult game will be the first one against RB Leipzig. It’s the most important game in the group stage. I know their rhythm and their quality, and the speed they play at.”
After two 1-0 losses to start the season, to Leicester City in the Community Shield and then to Tottenham Hotspur in the league, the reigning champions got themselves into gear and earned maximum points from the next three games, scoring 11 goals and conceding none. They have not lost at the City of Manchester Stadium yet this season, winning both home games 5-0 against Norwich City and Arsenal. It’s clear that our lads will be facing a team in dangerous form on Wednesday.
LAST FIVE GAMES
This is how Manchester City have started their season:
07.08.2021 Leicester City 1–0 Manchester City (Community Shield)
15.08.2021 Tottenham Hotspur 1–0 Manchester City (Premier League)
21.08.2021 Manchester City 5–0 Norwich City (Premier League)
28.08.2021 Manchester City 5–0 Arsenal London (Premier League)
11.09.2021 Leicester City 0–1 Manchester City (Premier League)
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FORM
Here’s how City have done in the last few years:
Kickoff on Wednesday is 21:00 CEST in the City of Manchester Stadium. The stadium on the eastern side of Manchester can hold 55,017 people and is about a 10 minute drive from Old Trafford, home of city rivals Manchester United. Initially used as an athletics stadium, the stadium is now primarily used for football, with a 106 by 70.4 metre grass pitch. City’s first game at the stadium was a friendly on August 10th 2003 which finished 2-1 to the Sky Blues.