Champions League football is back and our journey in this year’s competition begins with Portuguese giants Porto.
Of course, our adventure ended at the quarter-final stage last season with defeat to Lyon in Lisbon – proof that any side that makes it through the group stages are dangerous.
That loss will still be fresh in the minds of the players and getting off to a strong start on Wednesday evening will be crucial.
This is our first digital Champions League programme and the theme is suitably angled towards European competition and our many links to Portugal.
As always, we have Pep’s manager notes and Buzzer’s column, plus a detailed focus on our opponents which includes at look at Porto's current form, our numerous club connections and a head-to-head feature.
And check out Bernardo Silva's heatmap versus Arsenal
Our ‘Pick That One Out’ selection is very apt, and we also have a guest Dream Team for this edition – BBC Sport’s popular columnist and pundit Mark Lawrenson.
Lawro’s predictions for Premier League matches is among the BBC’s most viewed features online and we’re delighted he has selected his all-time City XI for us – with more than 45 years of experience playing against , commentating and watching City professionally, it is a fascinating team he has selected.
We’re thrilled at the response to our men and women’s digital programme editions – many thousands of you are reading it as part of your matchday routine and we will continue to publish them for as long as necessary while our games are played behind closed doors.
Thanks as ever and enjoy the game.
Good evening to everyone, wherever you will be watching this game.
This day is always an exciting time of the year as we start the new UEFA Champions League campaign.
We welcome FC Porto to the Etihad Stadium and say a warm hello to their manager Sergio Conceição.
Porto are hugely experienced in terms of European competition having won five of them, and they will provide an extremely tough examination, especially at this early stage of the season.
Sergio Conceição also has a lot of personal knowledge of different styles and football cultures, he has played and worked in many European countries including Portugal, Italy and Spain and we expect a complicated game.
The only problem we have, and it is the same for many, many teams, is a lack of preparation because of the way the season started.
We began our work for this season without four, five or six important players. The players are not machines, they are human beings and need time to get into top condition. Even now we will be missing three or four very important players.
The victory over Arsenal was important for our preparations for tonight and for the trip to West Ham United at the weekend.
It was a vital victory for many reasons. The clean sheet was also important. We fought hard and showed incredible desire. We knew it would be a tight game, Arsenal had been in fine form and are an improving team. Winning is always key for confidence and mentality.
Now we hope to make a fast start to our UCL campaign. Getting points on the board quickly and winning your home games are always key to securing the top spot in the group which is the aim of every team at this stage of the competition.
I hope you all enjoy the match.
We may not have been at our absolute best against Arsenal, but it was a vital win.
We needed a result against a good side – and Arsenal are a very good side at the moment – and we got it.
It wasn’t an easy game because we had key players missing again and we also have some new players still settling in, but overall, we did very well.
We created chances and limited Arsenal to a couple of good opportunities – which Ederson dealt with brilliantly – and got the three points as well as a clean sheet.
We were good against Wolves and Leeds as well, and Leicester was just one of those games that probably won’t be repeated for a long time, but hopefully this victory will give us a platform for the rest of the campaign.
I back everything that’s happening in football at the moment, but I do feel for the players because it can’t be easy playing in an empty stadium.
It was a novelty at first, but the players need the fans and the fans need the players and the sooner we can get people back in stadiums, the better.
I’m hoping that we will be able to have partial attendances at some stage and with social distancing, I’m sure it can be done.
It’s such an important part of everyone’s life and we need it to return as soon as it reasonably safe to do so.
I’m lucky in that I get into watch the matches as part of my role, but we all miss the roar of the crowd, the songs, and the shared experience of watching football..
On to this game and Porto won’t be an easy start to the group stages. This is the Champions League and a different challenge than the Premier League, and I think we will have learned a lesson from our defeat to Lyon last August and I firmly believe our time will come in this competition.
Each year, we learn more and eventually, good things will happen.
Finally, I’d like to pay tribute to Pablo Zabaleta who announced his retirement from playing last week
All great players have to retire at some stage and Zaba was most certainly a great player. He was also a great guy to know and he will be fondly remembered by our fans for many years to come because he was sort of a folk hero to them.
He came to Manchester in 2008, signing on the Thursday and playing on the Saturday – and he never looked back from that moment on.
He is a great example of any player coming from overseas of how to adapt to a new country, league and home and he most certainly made Manchester his home.
I think he will return to this football club at one stage – you’ve not heard the last of Pablo Zabaleta who remains a great ambassador for Manchester City.
He might even come back and do my job in the future! Having said that, I hope I’ve still got a few more years left in the tank.
Enjoy the game and keep safe.
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Porto, much like City, returned in June with all cylinders firing.
That said, their first game after the restart was a 2-1 loss to FC Famalicão – that saw Porto nudged out of top spot in the Primeira Liga with nine games remaining.
It also allowed great rivals Benfica to steal a march at the top of the table to set up what looked like a thrilling climax to the Portuguese domestic campaign.
After edging a 1-0 win over Maritimo, Porto then returned to pole position – only to drop two more points in the next game against relegation certainties Desportivo das Aves in a shock 0-0 draw.
For many, it looked like Porto were coming off the rails at exactly the wrong time – but with seven games, there was plenty of time to get back to the pre-lockdown form that had seen Sérgio Conceição’s side win 12 of their previous 15 matches.
Four successive victories duly followed, meaning that a win over Sporting Lisbon on Matchday 32 of 34, would seal a 29th Primeira Liga triumph for the Dragons.
And so it came to pass. In an empty Estádio do Dragão that would have normally have been filled with 50,000 partisan home fans, second-half goals from Danilo Pereira and Moussa Marega secured a 2-0 victory for Porto and ensured second-placed Benfica could not catch their rivals.
A win and a loss in the remaining matches meant Porto finished five points clear of Benfica.
The mainstays of the campaign were former Real Madrid stalwart Pepe, plus Jesus Corona, Moussa Marega, Otavio, Francisco Soares and Alex Telles who has since joined Manchester United.
Soares top-scored with 19 goals – he, too, has since left Porto to play in China – with Marega bagging 15 and Colombian Luis Diaz scoring 14 goals.
At the other end, Argentine keeper Augustin Marchesin kept 19 clean sheet in all competitions.
Like the Premier League (and despite it being late October), the Primeira Liga has not yet really sparked into life.
Porto have played four games, winning their first two but then losing 3-2 at home to Maritimo and drawing 2-2 with Sporting Lisbon, leaving the Dragons in second place and already five points adrift of leaders Benfica.
As ever with Portugal’s top clubs, they have seen several players leave the club (Telles and Fabio Silva totalled around £60m) for sizeable fees, while bringing in a number of new signings for next to nothing.
One notable new arrival is the season-long loan of the talented winger Felipe Anderson from West Ham United.
And with 37 year-old veteran and multiple Champions League winner Pepe leading the side, Porto will no doubt be treated with the respect they deserve by Pep Guardiola’s men.
Portugal: The Men
Looking at our many links with Portuguese football…
City’s links with Portugal over the past few years have notably increased.
And it won’t have gone unnoticed by Porto fans that many of our talented imports initially plied their trade with great rivals Benfica.
Indeed, the production line of stars that the three top clubs in Portugal produce is astounding (Sporting Lisbon obviously being the other), and credit to their wonderful scouting system is well overdue.
Marcos Lopes was one of the first Portuguese players to make it into the City senior side – Lopes signed from Benfica’s youth team in 2011 and went on to make five senior appearances before moving on to, initially to Lille.
Brazilian midfielder Fernando Reges clocked up 237 starts for Porto from 2008 to 2014 before joining Manuel Pellegrini's City for a reported fee of £12m.
Another Brazil star, Danilo, would spend four years with the Dragons, making 138 appearances and scoring 12 goals before leaving in 2015 for Real Madrid - two years later, he was on his way to the Etihad for a two-year stint.
Eliaquim Mangala played 96 times for Porto between 2011 and 2014 before sealing a big-money move to City and in 2015, Nicolas Otamendi signed for City from Porto having made 124 appearances between 2010 and 2014.
'The General' went on to make 210 appearances for City before joining Benfica last month.
Ederson began life with Portuguese side Ribeirao before moving on to Rio Ave had played just two seasons for Benfica before City swooped for him in 2017.
In total, he spent six years in Portugal.
City’s brilliant No.1 has gone on to make 148 appearances for City, as well as becoming one of the best ‘sweeper-keepers’ in the world.
Bernardo Silva’s formative years were spent with Benfica, joining the club aged eight and progressing through the club’s youth ranks over the next 11 years.
In 2013/14, he played 38 matches for Benfica B, before being promoted to the senior side where he played three games before being loaned initially to Monaco – an arrangement that became permanent in 2014.
Joao Cancelo spent five years with FC Barreirense before moving to Benfica’s youth set-up in 2007.
He went on to make 51 appearances for Benfica B before making a solitary start for the senior side and then moving on loan to Valencia, followed by spells at Inter Milan and Juventus.
Finally, latest signing Ruben Dias has made an excellent start to life in sky blue. Like our other stars who have Benfica links, playing Porto will always be special.
Born just 10km from central Lisbon, Dias joined Benfica’s youth side aged 11 and between 2015 and 2017, he played 55 times for As Aguias' B side before being promoted to the first team where he became a firm crowd favourite in the process.
Dias made 77 starts for Benfica, scoring seven goals between 2017 and 2020.
So, while City’s links with Porto are worthy of note, the links with their great rivals Benfica are numerous!
City v Porto: Head-to-Head
Tracking back the previous meetings with Porto is not difficult, as competitively, the clubs have only met twice before...
There is a third clash, which we’ll come to shortly, but we begin on 16 February 2012, with a Europa League Round of 32, first leg tie.
City’s first ever Champions League campaign had seen elimination at the group stages – though it was hard for Roberto Mancini’s men to take.
City finished with 10 points – normally more than enough to secure second spot at the very least, but despite beating Villarreal twice home and away, plus Bayern Munich at the Etihad, Napoli ended on 11 points and Bayern on 13.
A draw and loss against Napoli had undone Mancini’s side and as a result, City entered the Europa League instead – and were drawn against holders Porto!
Mancini knew an away goal and, if possible, a draw or victory, would put his side firmly in the box seat for the return at the Etihad.
City also had one eye on a first Premier League title and landed in Portugal as the league leaders in England.
Yaya Toure had just returned from the Africa Cup of Nations while Mario Balotelli – serving a four-game domestic ban – was also included for the game at the Estadio do Dragão
It was Porto, however, who drew first blood.
The dangerous Hulk burst down the flank before crossing in for Silvestre Varela to prod home from close range and put he hosts 1-0 up.
Balotelli should have levelled immediately but was denied by a superb save from Helton.
City again went close on 50 minutes when Micah Richards rattled the outside of the post, but just five minutes later, City were level and it came via the shoulder of Pereira as Yaya Toure attempted to pick out Balotelli.
And City snatched victory on 84 minutes through sub Sergio Aguero who turned home Yaya Toure’s cross to secure a precious 2-1 win just six minutes after coming on.
"I think that we played a good game, we played very well. In the first half we had three or four goal-scoring chances. We were really unlucky,” said Mancini.
"In the second half we played very well. We played as we know. We had seven, eight chances to score and we didn't give any chances to Porto, which is important because Porto is a top team.
"I think we won the game very well. We had more chances to score than them."
The second leg was anything but close and when Aguero scored after just 19 seconds, City led 1-0 on the night and 3-1 on aggregate.
Again, Yaya Toure was the creator, collecting the ball after Porto's Nicolas Otamendi had given possession away for the visitors and his low pass into Aguero’s path was perfectly weighted for the Argentine to run on to and slot a low shot past the keeper.
Porto stayed in the game until the 75th-minute when City finally killed off the m off with a second as Aguero slid a pass to Edin Dzeko who made no mistake.
In the time that remained, Porto had a man sent off and David Silva and David Pizarro added further goals to make it 4-0 on the night and 6-1 win on aggregate.
The only other meeting of any note was the Thomas Cook Trophy in 2007, with Porto the invited guests at what was briefly the annual curtain raiser to City’s season.
A goal from Adriano on 43 minutes proved the winner for Porto in a 1-0 victory at the Etihad.
Occasionally, we’ll veer off the well-trodden road of former City players and celebrity City fans’ dream XIs and get the opinion of those who are experts in their field, be that pundits, journalists, or other walks of life.
With that in mind, we welcome former Preston, Liverpool and Brighton defender and top BBC pundit/analyst/commentator and columnist Mark Lawrenson.
Lawro’s weekly predictions column is one of BBC Sport’s most read features and he’s been watching, commentating on (as well as playing against) City for more than 40 years.
Analysis of Lawro's team:
Mark has opted for a mixture of legends, past and present.
Bert Trautmann gets the verdict in goal, with Tony Book and Mike Doyle among a defence that includes the often overlooked Paul Power and, of course, one of our greatest ever skippers and Dream XI regular, Vincent Kompany.
Lawro’s midfield trio is both full of creativity, industry and is comprised of a regular Dream XI trio of Kevin De Bruyne, Colin Bell and David Silva – put a price on those gifted stars in today’s market!
The forward line is Mike Summerbee, Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero – again, lots of goals along with a hard work ethic that their managers demand/demanded.
The subs’ bench allows Mark to go with a few unsung heroes and nice to see Zaba, Goat and Kinky getting a deserved look in.
Big Joe, Franny Lee, Peter Barnes, and Willie Donachie complete the bench.
Choosing a manager wasn’t easy, so Lawro has chosen Joe Mercer, with Pep alongside him.
In other words, silverware and beautiful football would be guaranteed!
the life of riley
Marc Riley's unique view on things
One day I hope to elevate myself to the standard of ‘just below average tennis player’. This is the dream. My goal. The thing that makes me get out of bed of a morning. Actually, it’s my wife who makes me get out of bed of a morning, but you get my drift. You become addicted to sport. In the good old days, I could quite often find myself having played five or even seven games of squash in one week. Those days are long gone. These days my fix comes in the form of tennis. Maybe 2, 3 or 4 games a week. If I don’t play it, I feel sluggish and irritable, as opposed to when I do play - when I only feel slightly sluggish and fairly irritable.
Four months ago, I pulled my calf muscle. Being a sensible adult, I left it three days to heal. Surprisingly, this wasn’t long enough and my next foray onto the court saw the injury worsen. “Right” I thought “I’m going to be a responsible adult about this,” and so left it a full seven days. The next game saw me rip the same muscle in what was thought by my physio to be a three-inch tear in my calf. Cue three months of physio and frustration.
The only good thing to come out of the whole scenario was that my physio told me I should buy some of that blue elasticated sticky tape that proper athletes wear on vulnerable parts of their body. You will have seen Vincent Kompany using the same stuff.
I bought some and learnt the knack of applying it. From then on, I felt like Hercules. Swanning around with these two bright blue strips running up my leg toward the hem of my shorts.
Even in freezing cold weather shorts were the order of the day… because I needed my super-cool sticky tape to be seen… and I so longed to hear the phrase “Oh look at him…he must be a footballer…”
I never actually heard those words… though I did hear a few people saying, “Look at that twerp - wearing shorts in this weather!”
Talking of injuries… with the news about Virgil van Dijk’s setback comes the thought that losing the backbone of your team is a terrifying prospect.
As we know only too well.
In recent years we’ve spent much of crucial seasons without our most pivotal players. Of course, all teams suffer depletion at some point or other - but I do remember thinking that we must have upset the Great God Hamstring at some point. Vinnies awful injury is probably the closest you can compare to Liverpool’s current crisis and it must be said - it is a worry. If you add other long spells of absence from Sergio and David Silva and I honestly feel we’ve had more than our fair share of bad luck in that department.
If I can offer one crumb of hope to our Merseyside rivals it is this. We are blessed to have Kevin De Bruyne in our team obviously. He is arguably our greatest ever player (or at very least will prove to be once he leaves) but somehow we managed to win the title in the best least in the world with only a handful of appearances from the serial game-changer.
OPTIMISM COSTS NOTHING…. but then again…nor does pessimism.
So FUTEBOL CLUBE DO PORTO then!
A team founded in1893 by a port wine merchant called António Nicolau de Almeida. This means we have just about 13 years more experience than our imminent opponents…which gives me great confidence.
In a different time, I like to think the away leg of this clash might well have been an opportunity to take in some CL excitement and some sunshine. As it stands…it’ll be Fathers Bloomin’ Armchair YET AGAIN!!!
I’ve never been to Porto, but I have been to one Portuguese tourist resort which was rightly cited as the worst holiday destination in Europe a month after we came back. The hotel was advertised as ’10 minutes from the nearest beach. And it was! By Helicopter. Sadly, the hotel didn't have a Helicopter. It did however have a death-trap mini-bus used to rattle - sorry - shuttle the inmates - sorry guests to and from said beach. In an effort to try and meet the advertised 10-minute deadline the driver sped down dirt tracks, back alleys and lanes at 70 mph seemingly without fear of losing his own life… our ours.
So, thinking about it - maybe Father's Armchair isn’t such a bad place to be after all…
STRAP YOURSELVES IN …ENJOY THE MATCH….AND UP THE BLUES!