The UEFA Champions League is back!
City have had to wait a long time to try and avenge last season’s Round of 16 defeat to Barcelona in 2014/15 and they kick off their fifth campaign in the competition with a meeting with the 2014/15 runners-up.
It’s a mouthwatering re-introduction to the continent’s premier club competition but where will the game be won and lost? Here are five things to look out for…
Form book out of the window…
It’s been well documented that of the four Group D sides, only City have won a match so far this season.
Juventus, Borussia Monchengladbach and Sevilla have all struggled for form in the early weeks of their league seasons but that won’t count for much come Tuesday night at the Etihad.
Manuel Pellegrini warned that the Old Lady’s domestic struggles may actually be a bad thing for City as Juventus approach a different competition without the baggage loaded on by defeats to Roma and Udinese and their home draw with Chievo on Sunday.
It’s Juve’s worst start since 1912 but a team of their European pedigree can never be underestimated – especially as they only reached the final of the Champions League a few months ago.
Flying start is crucial…
Manuel Pellegrini has bemoaned the fact that City have drawn FC Barcelona in both of the Last 16 ties he has led them to in his time at the club.
If the Blues wish to avoid this occurring for a third straight year, they must ensure that they top the group as you would not bet against bad luck striking for a third time.
Getting off to a good start is crucial, especially at home where many of City’s Champions League problems have come to roost.
City have only won once in their four previous opening Champions League games (D1 L2) and we were only victorious in one of our four home games last season.
All of these things have to change if we are to finally make a big impression on the continental stage.
Although Scott Dann’s challenge has robbed City of the services of Sergio Aguero for our opening European game, we did receive a David Silva and Raheem Sterling shaped boost on Monday.
Manuel Pellegrini confirmed that the pair who missed our win over Crystal Palace will return to the squad in his pre-match press briefing and it leaves him with something of a selection headache – a pleasant one!
With all of City’s creative architects available, who will he opt for? If Silva is 100%, you’d imagine he’s a shoe-in in for one of the three supporting roles behind Wilfried Bony, but which of Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne, Samir Nasri and Jesus Navas will slot in?
Pellegrini described Nasri as being “in a good moment” in the press conference and pointed out that City have won every game Navas has started, so it’s an intruging dilemma for the Chilean.
An Italian job…
City have never lost a home game against an Italian team in European competition.
Brian Kidd, now on the coaching staff, scored in their 1-0 home win over Juventus on 15 September 1976 in the first round of the UEFA Cup and since, our home record against teams from Italy has been decent.
However, you only have to cast your minds back as far as last season for a good marker on the fine margins between English and Italian sides.
We were perhaps a little fortunate to claim a 1-1 with AS Roma in the 2014/15 group stages – couple this with our draw against Napoli in our first Champions League campaign in 2011/12 and you get the impression we’re in for a tight game.
Forget the clichés about Italian teams, when City play in the Champions League, you can expect to see a goal or two… for better or worse!
None of our 28 UEFA Champions League games have ended goalless but we have only kept four clean sheets in these games.
Joe Hart, who hasn’t been beaten in 566 minutes of Premier League football, hasn’t shipped a goal for club nor country all season long but he’ll be in for a stern test against the likes of Mario Mandzukic and Paulo Dybala on Tuesday night.
City begin their Champions League campaign against last season’s finalists Juventus tonight at 7.45pm.
Tickets are still available to buy in person at the Stadium Ticket Office, located behind the stage in City Square from just £5 for Under 16s and from £30 for Adults.
The Stadium Ticket Office is open now and closes 15 minutes after kick off. Please note that to avoid delays in getting into the Stadium, supporters are strongly advised to purchase their match ticket from the Stadium Ticket Office at least 90 minutes before kick-off.