Whether you’re anxious because you fear that this opponent might put an end to the winning streak or confident because you expect your team to prove the last doubters wrong, you’re definitely looking forward to this match. This applies to both Bayern and City fans. Here’s a preview of the match of the week.
Convincing, dominating, unstoppable – these days you won’t find an article about Bayern without these or similar words. And why not? Since that unlucky loss against Gladbach, all following 9 matches were won. 26 goals were scored and not one conceded. But even though praise was drawn, not all doubts were dissipated. Especially last season’s weakness, the defense, is questioned by many. Those disbeliefs have to and will stop if the performance against Manchester City is just as satisfying.
It’s just as well a special match for the guests. With all due respect to Napoli, they’re not a classic location for Champions League evenings (yet?). The moment the Citizens enter the pitch of the roaring Allianz Arena is when they realize that they’re now a part of the tournament of the greats. But who am I to talk about a club I don’t follow that closely? That’s why I asked Neil Sherwin, co-editor of the great Back Page Football and Man City fan, to tell us more about the club he loves. Enjoy:
Bayern Munich away in the Champions League is the sort of fixture that Manchester City fans could only dream about a decade or so ago as the club languished outside the top flight of English football. Ten years is a long time admittedly but the transformation undergone by the blue half of Manchester has put them in amongst the big boys of European football.
Sheikh Mansour and his bottomless pit of cash have cleared Manchester City’s substantial debts and also bought a team capable of challenging on a number of fronts. A drought of 35 trophyless years was ended in May of this year when City overcame Stoke 1-0 in the FA Cup Final, but arguably the biggest success of the regime to date was the Champions League qualification secured by finishing third in the Premier League.
Manager Roberto Mancini has come in for his fair share of criticism since taking the reins at Eastlands in December 2009 with many disappointed with his perceived negativity despite having some of the world’s most attacking players at his disposal. At time it looked like his side were plodding along in fourth gear, afraid to step it up, however results on the pitch were ultimately impossible to argue with.
This season has seen a change in that. The acquisition of Samir Nasri and Sergio Aguero has added even more fire power to an already threatening forward line that includes Carlos Tevez, Mario Balotelli, Edin Dzeko, David Silva and Adam Johnson. There’s also Yaya Toure who provides drive in midfield with the ever energetic James Milner always willing to push on and support whenever possible.
While Aguero, Dzeko and Tevez (more so last season) have been getting the plaudits for their goal scoring exploits, the real architect of everything that is great about the current Manchester City side is David Silva. The little Spaniard, nicknames ‘Merlin’ by his team mates, was deemed too small and light for the Premier League when he joined from Valencia at the beginning of last season. Fast forward twelve months and he is already being talked up as a possible Player of the Year. With two goals and four assists from his opening five league games, Silva is in fine form and even a 90 minute shadow in the form of Jack Rodwell couldn’t prevent him from picking up the Man of the Match award against Everton on Saturday.
While it is all very exciting going forward, there are still some question marks at the back. Both Joe Hart and Vincent Kompany are models of consistency at this stage but it is the players around them that are not quite as reliable. Joleon Lescott has filled in for Kolo Toure following the latter’s six month ban for illegal substance use but has been very much hit and miss. The wide positions are occupied by either the ‘two slow’ or ‘two fast’ full backs in the form of Pablo Zabaleta/Aleksandar Kolarov and Micah Richards/Gael Clichy respectively. It is the Richards and Clichy combination which has looked the most competent so far this season, though there is never any doubting Zabaleta’s commitment and Kolarov did score the crucial equaliser at home to Napoli in the first Champions League hit out.
One man who seems to have been forgotten in recent weeks is Nigel De Jong. The Dutchman has been absent since picking up an injury against Bolton Wanderers and Tuesday’s game is exactly the sort of contest in which the tough tackling midfielder excels. His ability to shield and protect the back four is vital in away games and, with Partick Vieira retired and Owen Hargreaves not up to speed yet, City are very much lacking a ‘clogger’.
How will the game go? Well Bayern have been in fantastic form in the Bundesliga while City are currently unbeaten so we’ll see two in form sides go head to head. It will be important for City to claim an early foothold in midfield and not get overrun in the absence of De Jong. In Aguero and Silva particularly City have proven match winners in the starting line up, but even if that fails then it is comforting to know that the likes of Tevez and Balotelli are waiting in the wings.
A win and three points would obviously be ideal but I think any City fan who knows the current Bayern side would be only too happy to leave Munich with a point.
Thanks a lot for that outstanding piece, Neil. As for the lineups: City will have to do without Adam Johnson (injured), Mario Balotelli (suspended) and Owen Hargreaves who, unfortunately for Bayern fans, isn’t a part of their CL squad. Nigel de Jong still isn’t fit but decided to travel with the team, he’ll try to at least be another option on the bench. If that doesn’t work, there’s still Oktoberfest…
Bayern, as regular readers know, won’t have the injured Breno and Ivica Olic available. Holger Badstuber is still doubtful (flu), Arjen Robben is fit enough to play but might not start. At least that’s what the media say, my gut feeling says he’ll be in the starting lineup. If I’m wrong, it’s no rocket science to figure out that Toni Kroos replaces him.
I expect Robben and Badstuber to be fit enough to start and Roberto Mancini to use the same lineup as against Everton (there’ve been speculations that Edin Dzeko will be replaced by Carlos Tevez or James Milner, we’ll find out tomorrow). Here are the possible lineups: