WITH their lucky win against Sevilla at home two weeks ago, Manchester City flew to Spain to prepare for battle against the same team tonight at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium. Lucy McLane assesses their chances…
The last game against Sevilla was a tough, tense and tormenting match for City and the fans, but with Kevin de Bruyne’s miracle stoppage time goal, City stole Sevilla’s deserved draw and won the three points. The Spanish team showed plenty of energy and fight during the last meeting at the Etihad Stadium, and for tonight’s game they will be after the win they deserved first time around.
City need to prove they are a reputable team to play in Europe without their two main men. Players such as Nicolas Otamendi and Fernando have said that this will be the toughest fixture in Group D of the Champions League and they are expecting ‘a tough 90 minutes’.
A glimmer of light in terms of injuries is that Gael Clichy and Fabian Delph have been declared fit and both have trained with the team and have flown out to Spain. Whether they are in the starting XI is unknown yet as Clichy has not played at all this season and Delph has only played a total of 16 minutes due to a hamstring injury.
Since their last match, Sevilla have had mixed fortunes domestically, thrashing Getafe 5-0 but falling to a 2-1 defeat at Villarreal, which left them 11th in the La Liga table. This of course is good news for City as they come from their domestic league (since the last meeting), with no losses and sitting top of the table.
Another light at the end of the tunnel would be that Sevilla will also be without their main striker Kevin Gamiero, who sustained a hamstring injury during their defeat to Villarreal on Saturday, and will be out of this important European tie, but will return for their clash against Real Madrid this weekend.
Although the latter is all good news for City, it doesn’t mean they can be careless. So what can City do to secure a draw tonight or even a magical win?
The team need to concentrate more
Despite comfortable 5-1 victories over Bournemouth in the Premier League and Crystal Palace in the Capital One Cup recently, goals have still been conceded in matches since the last international break. Despite the Blues having a good and, at times, unbreakable defence, players like Eliaquim Mangala and even Wilfried Bony need to keep an eye on the game.
While both players have the physical dominance defensively and in attack, they are known for one bad move of carelessness and the opposition can break and make ground with the ball.
Defence is better than attack
Defensively, City are great. At the dull Manchester derby at Old Trafford, it was hard for their rivals to score and break down the defence. Other matches such as Bournemouth and Norwich saw more goals, and either none or one goal for the opposition.
These ‘kinder matches’ for City in the Premier League and Capital One Cup have provided them with the chance to practise their attack without Golden Boot winner, Sergio Aguero, and it has been remotely successful.
Where we see weakness in Bony at times, City need him while Aguero is away. It is fair to say that Bony has been thrown in at the deep end with Aguero’s injury but game by game he is improving by doing what he is meant to do… score.
With four Premier League goals so far, he does have potential in league games but, in my opinion, not yet in Europe so could Manuel Pellegrini drop Bony and move the fast-paced Raheem Sterling up front with Kevin De Bruyne, Yaya Toure and Jesus Navas behind?
Use De Bruyne and Sterling more
We know De Bruyne is great. We know he can score, and we know he still works great under pressure. Unlike Bony, the newbie Kevin is good enough for the Champions League, not only by his quick match-winning goal last time, but he helped his old team VfL Wolfsburg qualify for the competition this year with his helpful 10 goals and Bundesliga record of 21 assists. I think De Bruyne will be pivotal for Manchester City’s success tonight. He is fast on the ball, worth his money and plays star-quality football.
Tuesday’s game will be highly likely to be up-tempo and rocky. By using the England winger, Sterling will inject pace into City’s attack. We know Sterling can score, and now, with him gelling with the squad more his team ethos makes him more likely to assist a goal than score. This attitude is what will be needed tonight, one big team effort and push to ensure they get the win they need.
If City and Juventus win their games this evening, both teams will qualify for the Round of 16. However, defeat to Unai Emery’s side would leave City and Sevilla level on points with the Blues still having to play group leaders, Juventus in Turin.
By Lucy McLane