- Adam Howarth
Everything you need to know, Predicted XI - Manchester City vs RB Leipzig Preview
Saturday saw Manchester City earn a fourth successive win and a third consecutive clean sheet against Crystal Palace. Pep Guardiola’s side now turn their attention to Europe, as they welcome RB Leipzig to the Etihad Stadium for the second leg of their UEFA Champions League round of 16 tie, on Tuesday, 14 March at 20:00 (GMT). After a 1-1 draw in Germany, it is still all to play for ahead of this decisive second leg, which will be televised on BT Sport in the United Kingdom.
The Premier League champions are still not at their best, and Guardiola is seemingly yet to decide on a consistent starting 11. But City have now won four games in a row since that first leg, the first time they have done so since before the World Cup. With Nathan Aké’s suspected late knock at Selhurst Park not expected to be anything serious, it appears as though Guardiola will have the rare luxury of a fully fit squad at his disposal.
Despite the lack of a consistent starting lineup, certain players are far more likely than others to start tomorrow. Ederson will start in goal behind a defence likely to consist of Aké at left-back and Ruben Dias in the middle. Rodri will anchor the midfield, with Jack Grealish and Erling Haaland spearheading the City attack. But who will make up the vacant positions?
Manuel Akanji, Aymeric Laporte and John Stones are strong options in defence. Stones may start at right-back once again, especially given Kyle Walker’s off-field issues, but will Guardiola put faith in Rico Lewis at right-back for such a big occasion? His impressive displays in that inverted full-back role will have given the Catalan something to think about.
Kevin de Bruyne is likely to return to the midfield; it’s rare that he ever misses two games in succession. Club captain Ilkay Gundogan could start alongside him but Bernardo Silva’s energy levels may be needed for such an occasion.
With a goal in each of the club’s previous meetings with RB Leipzig, Riyad Mahrez may return to start on the right wing after Phil Foden’s impressive scoring run ended at the weekend. Alternatively, if Lewis is to start on the right hand side of the backline, Julian Alvarez may well operate in a second striker role, with one of the aforementioned midfielders dropping out. Given the various available options, we’re likely to see a return of the famous ‘Pep roulette’.
Ederson; Walker, Stones, Dias, Aké; Rodri, De Bruyne, Gundogan; Mahrez, Haaland, Grealish.
RB Leipzig are enjoying a strong season in the Bundesliga. Since the departure of manager Domenico Tedesco after their first Champions League match, a 4-1 defeat to Shakhtar Donetsk, ‘die Roten Bullen’ have been transformed under Marco Rose.
The former Borussia Dortmund manager has guided the club to their current standing of third place in the league, seven points behind league leaders Bayern Munich. A strong spell of form under the German saw Leipzig go 18 games unbeaten from October to February, when that run was brought to an end by the high-flying Union Berlin.
Since then, despite a damaging defeat at Dortmund, they won each of their other three Bundesliga matches and gave a great account of themselves in the first leg of this clash. In that loss at Signal Iduna Park, Xaver Schlager was forced off through injury; he joins danger man Christopher Nkunku, Peter Gulacsi and Abdou Diallo on the sidlines.
Konrad Laimer has now returned in midfield, though, but of all fit players, Emil Forsberg is the current one to watch; the Swede has scored four goals in his last four league games. Meanwhile, after scoring the goal that kept things level ahead of their trip to Manchester, Josko Gvardiol will certainly be under the spotlight, with City reportedly one of several suitors for the Croatian defender.
That first leg saw the sides draw for the first time in three previous meetings, with City still winless at the Red Bull Arena. However, the only time the sides have faced off at the Etihad came in last year’s group stages, where a nine-goal thriller ended in a 6-3 victory for the Blues, despite the scare of a Nkunku hat-trick.
To see the last time the Premier League champions lost to a German side at home, you would have to go back to 2013, when reigning European champions Bayern, under Guardiola, beat Manuel Pellegrini’s City in the group stage. Since then, the club have won all nine home meetings with German opposition, with three of those coming in the knockout stages*.
(*City’s 2-0 round of 16 win over Borussia Mönchengladbach in 2021 was considered a home meeting, yet was played in Hungary)
Referee: Slavko Vincic
Assistants: Tomaz Klancnik & Andraz Kovacic
Fourth Official: Rade Obrenovic
VAR: Alejandro Hernandez
Assistant VAR: Nejc Kajtazovic
Written by: @AdamHowarthSJ
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