De Bruyne returns home, Pep to name his best XI - Club Brugge v Manchester City Preview
Watch Club Brugge v Manchester City live on BT Sport on Tuesday night. Kick-off is 17:45 BST.
Club Brugge host Manchester City this Tuesday as the Blues aim to get back on track in the group stage after defeat to PSG last time out. Their Belgian counterparts, dubbed as the weakest team in the group, have started their campaign in the competition spectacularly, drawing with PSG in the first group game and beating Leipzig in the second. Can City handle the wave of euphoria that Brugge are riding or will the Belgian club drown the Blues and send them into Champions League despair and put them in real jeopardy?
Manchester City started their Champions League campaign winning an enthralling encounter against Leipzig 6-3 in a chaotic first encounter with their German counterparts. After Brugge's win against the same opposition and a shock draw with PSG they sit above City in the table though after the Blues were beaten 2-0 in Paris.
Those results give these back-to-back clashes with Brugge real significance if City want to qualify for the knockout stage for the ninth consecutive season. A win for Tuesday's hosts would send them four points clear of City in the group while a City win would leapfrog them above Brugge and would guarantee they end the day 2nd in the group.
Brugge's season has been special so far and their fans have been magnificent. This will be their sternest test so far though and the question is whether they'll be able to keep riding this momentum or whether, against this City side, the wave they've been riding will hit a brick wall.
Kick-off: 17:45 BST
Venue: Jan Breydel Stadium, Bruges
Referee: István Kovács (ROU)
Assistants: Vasile Florin Marinescu (ROU), Ovidiu Artene (ROU)
Fourth official: Marian Alexandru Barbu (ROU)
VAR: Paolo Valeri (ITA)
Assistant VAR: Fedayi San (SUI)
This will be Istvan Kovac's first-ever appointment as referee involving Manchester City
The opposition: Club Brugge (BEL)
League position: 2
Form (all comps): WDWDW
Last result: 2-0 win v Kortrijk (Vormer x2)
Club Brugge have had a curious season although it’s not a shock that a Champions League side from a relatively obscure league suddenly do well on the bigger stage. Their form, at times, has stuttered in the Belgian top-flight but there has been none of that inconsistency in Europe’s premier showcase.
A 6-1 loss to Gent at the end of August would’ve perhaps eased any PSG nerves but if they thought that the first group game for their ‘big three’ would be a walk in the park, they were very much mistaken. Set up in a 4-4-1-1 formation, the Belgian club were incredibly well drilled and even threatened a match-winner on several occasions.
Since that magnificent result, roared on by a buoyant and hopeful atmosphere, the club have stuttered more in the league - only picking up five points from the last nine available. It remains a mystery how they have played so exceptionally well in Europe but have not taken that form into the league. Brugge have had a strange habit of winning a game and then drawing the game after at the moment - after winning 2-0 at the weekend, if that trend continues, then this game points towards a draw, although who pays attention to strange stats like that?
Club Brugge stunned RB Leipzig last time out, winning 2-1 in the RB Arena
The curious case of Brugge is evident the most over the course of the past week before the latest international break. A draw against Vincent Kompany’s Anderlecht a few days before facing Leipzig wasn‘t the best way to warm up for that encounter but a tweak in system to a 5-4-1 against their German opposition proved to be a master stroke as the Belgians grabbed a 2-1 win to finish the game-week second in the group.
They now face their toughest test yet though and will need to make the Jan Breydel Stadium a fortress when they welcome the Premier League champions and last season’s runners-up on Tuesday night. Whether it’s a well-drilled four-man defence that is prepared to go for it or a pragmatic five-man defence Brugge, buoyed by the crowd, will give City their best.
Ruud Vormer has yet to start in the Champions League this season but after scoring both goals in a 2-0 win over Kortrijk at the weekend, the midfielder could be in line to start this one.
Simon Mignolet, formerly of Liverpool, will meet Manchester City for the first time since the 2018/19 season although he started the last meeting between the sides on the bench as City beat title-chasing 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium.
Eder Alvarez, who started at centre-back when Brugge beat Leipzig, may miss the game not only because he was late from international duty but also because when he missed the game at the weekend the man in his place, Ruud Vormer, hit a brace. He'll be hoping to keep his place in the team.
Projected XI: Mignolet; Mata, Hendry, Nsoki, Sobol; Vormer, Rits, Vanaken; Sowah, De Ketelaere, Lang
Club Brugge stunned PSG on opening night and the Brugge support will make their stadium a cauldron when City visit on Tuesday night. Could it be another special night for the hosts?
The City View:
League position: 3rd
Form (all comps): WDLWW
Previous result: W 2-0 v Burnley (Bernardo, De Bruyne)
Manchester City got the job done at home to Burnley last time out but in typical post-international break fashion, the Blues weren't anywhere close to their best. Grinding out the result was the most important thing in that game but Burnley had their chances to get back into the game, Chris Wood's three-yard miss summing up how poor they've been in front of goal.
City can't afford to play like that in Bruges though, otherwise, they'll be the next scalp in this fairytale Brugge story this season. City rested both Ruben Dias and Kyle Walker for that clash though and the pair both offer a huge defensive effort so expect them to return for this one.
Last time out, the Blues lost in Paris but the performance on a whole was one of the best of the campaign. Bernardo Silva's missed tap-in from on the goal-line summed up the team's luck in that game but if they perform to that level again on Tuesday, it'll surely be enough to beat Brugge.
Ferran Torres remains the only marquee absentee for City having fractured his foot on international duty with Spain. The striker is set for two to three month spell on the sidelines, meaning Raheem Sterling may be set for another start in his place.
John Stones will also miss the clash after not travelling with the first team for the trip. There’s understood to be no injury or illness involved -personal reasons are why he hasn’t travelled.
Ilkay Gundogan and Alex Zinchenko both returned to the matchday squad for the Burnley game and both could be in line for starts for this game if Guardiola chooses to rotate. After their goals against Burnley though, Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva may both just keep their place in the starting XI.
Gabriel Jesus and Ederson are both in Belgium ahead of the game, too, and the Brazilians are likely to be restored to the line-up straight away having had a five day rest since last featuring for Brazil on Friday morning.
Jack Grealish missed the last game but may return ahead of Phil Foden or Raheem Sterling.
Projected XI: Ederson, Walker, Dias, Laporte, Cancelo, Rodri, Bernardo, De Bruyne, Jesus, Sterling, Grealish
Kevin De Bruyne started, scored against Burnley and is in line to start in his home country as he begins to ramp up his comeback from an ankle injury
If City pull off a win in Bruges then they'll definitely be second in the group at the end of the night regardless of the score in Paris. With victory in Bruges, City will be hoping that RB Leipzig will be able to pull off a shock against PSG - if that happens, whether Leipzig draw or win, City will end the day top of the group ahead of the Parisians. Lots to play for, lots at stake if City lose - they could potentially end the night bottom of the group if Leipzig win and they lose.
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