Pep Guardiola may have Manchester City off to a flying start in the Premier League, but his pedigree in the Champions League was a major reason he was brought to Eastlands. City have struggled to make an impression in Europe, not helped by some very tough draws, with last year’s semi-final appearance their best run in the competition. This season, they have been handed another tough group containing Guardiola’s former club Barcelona, Borussia Monchengladbach and Celtic. The Germans were in City’s group last year, with the English side victorious home and away.
City start their campaign at home to Monchengladbach tonight, with three points imperative given that two games against the Catalans loom ominously on the horizon. Monchengladbach, like City, finished fourth in their domestic league to qualify for this year’s competition and dispatched Swiss outfit Young Boys 9-2 on aggregate in the playoff. Under the guidance of manager Andre Schubert, they took four points off Guardiola’s Bayern Munich last term. They may have lost club captain Granit Xhaka to Arsenal earlier this summer, but Thorgan Hazard, Christian Kramer and Josip Drmic will be familiar names for those who follow Premier League gossip columns.
Manchester City eased past Steaua Bucharest in the Champions League qualifier 6-0 on aggregate, and have a 100% record domestically with four straight win in the league. The latest on these victories was Saturday’s 2-1 Derby Day win over Manchester United at Old Trafford, with City in imperious form for most of that match. Monchengladbach beat Hannover at home on the opening game of the Bundesliga season, but lost away at Freiburg on Saturday; their 11th away Bundesliga defeat in 18 matches.
Predicted Line Ups
Manchester City Starting XI Borussia Monchengladbach Starting XI
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Injuries and Suspensions
Sergio Aguero’s three game ban for violent conduct only applies to domestic competition, so the Argentinian striker is available and expected to start this game. Summer singing Ilkay Gundogan is close to a full debut and is back in full training after an extended period on the sidelines with a dislocated knee. He may not be risked from the start of this game, but Guardiola says he is getting ‘much, much better’. Vincent Kompany is in the same situation, and though he has returned to training he is likely to be short for tonight. The visitors will be without Patrick Herrmann with an abductor injury.
This is exactly the type of encounter in which City would have slipped up under previous regimes, but there looks very little chance of that under Guardiola. With two games against Barcelona to come, as well as the tricky return tie in Germany, there is simply no excuse for City to take Monchengladbach lightly tonight. The German outfit have a dismal away record domestically, and there is very little to suggest that will change here. 20-year old playmaker Mahmoud Dahoud is one to watch for the visitors, as well as experienced Brazilian forward Raffael. With Aguero reinstalled at the tip of City’s attack however, Guardiola’s men should have too much quality.
Verdict: Home win.