Getting back on track against Brugge – Manchester City vs Club Brugge Preview
After two losses over the past week, Manchester City will be looking to get back to winning ways against Club Brugge of Belgium on Wednesday night. The game kicks off at 8 pm GMT, live on BT Sport 3 in the UK.
Manchester City, bruised after their four in a row hold of the Carabao Cup came to end and a damaging 2-0 loss with 10 men to Crystal Palace last week, will be desperate to put things right against the Belgian side. In their last European outing, at the Jan Breydel Stadium, they slapped 5 past the Belgian outfit with academy starlet Cole Palmer coming off the bench to score his first goal in the Champions League.
The win in Bruges was an impressive one with Phil Foden putting in a dominant creative performance from a false 9 role. However, even with the confidence that a 5-1 win can bring to a team, that result is in the past and City cannot afford to ease up at the Etihad considering the precarious nature of their group. A third loss in a row would mean City dropping to third and out of the knockout qualifying spots, whilst a win could put them top depending on the PSG v Leipzig result. Pep Guardiola called this match the more important of the two City will play this week - a brave thing to say considering the Manchester Derby is on Saturday - but his expectation for both games is no different; Win. City find themselves digging deep for wins at the moment. Phil Foden is impressing in the role up front he finds himself playing more often than not, however losses like those of last week cause outrage on Twitter and fervent media chatter about City's need for a traditional number 9, but we all know that situation is unlikely to change before next season. Sharing the load of goals and assists needed to get the wins that deliver trophies is imperative and the match in Belgium was a great example of this. Kyle Walker and Joao Cancelo both chipping in with fantastic efforts, alongside Palmer's strike and two from Riyad Mahrez delivered the points. Perhaps a similar attitude toward the attack will be needed at the Etihad this midweek and beyond.
Guardiola spoke in his press conference about not being fully impressed with defensive performances saying "We are still making mistakes, defensively the back four, the pressing", highlighting the previous Club Brugge game as an example where offensively City were there, but defensively less so. He also noted how he expects Club Brugge to "adjust things to punish us... it will be a completely different game". So whilst on paper, fans are likely expecting another big scoring game for the blues, the reality could quite as easily be different.
Pep Guardiola said there were no new injuries in the squad in his pre-match conference, so with the exception of long term absentee Ferran Torres (metatarsal fracture), the boss has a full senior squad to choose from, as well as academy players Iker Pozo and Oscar Tarensi being spotted in training. Regardless of which game this week Guardiola is valuing more, he won't want to turn up at Old Trafford with a weakened squad so I expect a handful of changes from the weekend. City played an XI perceived to be their strongest in the weekend's fixture vs Crystal Palace, so I'd expect Kevin De Bruyne to start this one from the bench with Ilkay Gundogan returning to the XI in his place. The ever-present Joao Cancelo should be given a much-deserved rest here too, with Zinchenko coming in at LB, flanked by Kyle Walker at RB. Picking a Manchester City front 3 is difficult at the best of times, but with the form between all the options so varied, it's not an easy one to predict accurately. However, with Riyad Mahrez known for stepping his game up in the Champions League, I'd consider him for the slot at RW, with Jack Grealish taking the central role and Raheem Sterling completing the set. Phil Foden, despite his recent impressive form, may be in need of the rest and with the derby on the weekend, Stockport and Manchester's finest footballer needs to think ahead. Predicted XI: Ederson; Walker, Dias, Laporte, Zinchenko; Gundogan, Rodri, Bernardo; Mahrez, Grealish, Sterling.
Club Brugge will be looking to put a horror record to its end this week, having never won away from home against an English side in European competition. Their game against City will be their 14th attempt at doing so, but they’ve lost 11 of their previous 13 such games, drawing twice. However, they sit comfortably amidst the teams at the top of the Belgian Pro League, currently in 2nd, only two points behind unexpected leaders Union Saint-Gilloise. With only two league games played since their last outing against City last month, there's not much more evidence to judge them as a team than we had last time. A 1-1 draw with 3rd place Antwerp where both teams finished with 10 men each and a 2-1 win against mid-table STVV, with both scored by Bas Dost has kept their pursuit for the Belgian title alive. Despite Dost's output, however, I'd expect a pretty identical lineup to the one that played in the reverse fixture a fortnight ago with all eyes and Belgian hopes on future superstar attacker Charles De Ketelaere and their goalscorer from that game Hans Vanaken looking to repeat his efforts. Scottish international Jack Hendry should keep his place in defence, and ex Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet will be looking to keep the score down, despite conceding 5 goals to Guardiola's men in his last two appearances against them. Midfielder Eder Alvarez Balanta is suspended with multiple bookings to his name.
Predicted XI: Mignolet; Mata, Hendry, Nsoki, Sobol; Sowah, Rits, Vormer, Lang; Vanaken, De Ketelaere
Referee: Mateu Lahoz
Assistants: Pau Cebrián Devís and Roberto Díaz Pérez del Palomar
Fourth official: Jaime Latre
VAR: Ricardo de Burgos Bengoetxea
Assistant VAR: Christian Dingert
UEFA Referee Observer: Francesco Bianchi
UEFA Delegate: Neil Morrow Lahoz last refereed City in May's Champions League Final against Chelsea. A referee whose name is almost like sin to Manchester City, he has history with the club especially under Guardiola with controversial incidents marring games against Liverpool in 17/18 and AS Monaco in 16/17 which ultimately led to exit from the competition for City.