Rotation, Rotation, Rotation – RB Leipzig vs Manchester City Preview
With City through as group winners, the Blues will look to sign off 2021 in Europe in style away to Leipzig on Tuesday, December 7, live on BT Sport with kick-off at 5.45 pm GMT.
Fresh off their dominant, if not ruthless 3-1 win over Watford on Saturday night, Manchester City are off to East Germany to finish their Champions League group stage campaign. City have won the group, but opponents RB Leipzig still potentially need a point or three to seal their own qualification for the Europe League knockouts, equal on points but sitting third ahead of Club Brugge. So, whilst this game is a bit futile for City, their opponents still have something left to play for, and whilst manager-less currently, they proved to be pretty tricky opponents in the home leg in a ridiculous 6-3 win for City. However, a look at City's current form shows they are performing at the highest level. After claiming top spot in the Premier League with that win over Watford, City are in the driving seat of their own destiny and this game can be just another example of the masterful shape Pep Guardiola has whipped his team into. Their Champions League form is also pretty consistent, despite not being the same insanely high level the Blues have been at domestically. No clean sheets in the group stage, but plenty of chances and most of them scored. The only mark against them was a confusing 2-0 loss to Paris Saint-Germain in France, where City were clearly the better side but failed to convert in reply to Gueye and Messi's freak goals.
A sad thing about this game away is it will be behind closed doors. City's incredible travelling fans despite hotels, flights and tickets bought will not be in the Red Bull Arena due to COVID restrictions in Germany. We've seen the effect the fans being back has had, especially away. In tricky visits to Chelsea, Leicester, Brugge and just last weekend at Watford they've been loud, not letting up and even bringing the infamous Poznan back at points. I for one hope this is the only game this season we don't see thousands of adoring Blues packing out the away end, football is just simply not the same without the fans.
As the title of this piece suggests, we should expect a fair few changes from the weekend on Tuesday evening. With Gabriel Jesus not travelling due to injury and Bernardo Silva, Rodri, Aymeric Laporte and Joao Cancelo all rested for this one, there's going to be changes. Cole Palmer has travelled with the first team along with four academy starlets in James McAtee, Romeo Lavia, CJ Egan-Riley and Josh Wilson-Esbrand who all four will be hoping with 5 subs available to Guardiola to make their Champions League debuts. Guardiola confirmed in his pre-match press conference that Kevin De Bruyne after playing from the bench at weekend will make his first start for over a month on Tuesday. We should expect Zack Steffen to make his first appearance since the Carabao Cup penalties defeat to West Ham as well. After that, your guess is as good as mine, but I think CJ Egan-Riley and Cole Palmer are close to guarantees to start, the former at RB and Palmer up front. City's go-to man in the UCL Riyad Mahrez will almost certainly resume duties on the RW, with Foden on the other side. After that, you can probably expect those with the least minutes recently to play, so the likes of John Stones, Nathan Ake, Fernandinho, Oleks Zinchenko all getting a go. Due to this, we may even see James McAtee get his first start for City if Guardiola moves Zinchenko back to defence, at least I hope so!
Predicted XI: Steffen; Egan-Riley, Stones, Ake, Zinchenko; De Bruyne, Fernandinho, McAtee; Mahrez, Palmer, Foden.
RB Leipzig are in the midst of one of the most torrid seasons in their short history so far. Only the one win in the Champions League this season, coming last time out against Club Brugge and sitting 16 points off the top of the Bundesliga in 11th. The club just sacked head coach Jesse Marsch who was appointed in the summer from sister club Salzburg and their last win was on the 11th of November. Nobody can quite pinpoint where it's gone wrong for Marsch, but the departure of Upamecano to FC Bayern has hurt and whilst Christopher Nkunku is having a fine individual season, having scored 13 in 19 in all competitions this season, his teammates are struggling to replicate similar form. Not to add on the misery but RB will also be missing Dani Olmo who's out through a muscle injury as well as Youssef Poulsen. Ilaix Moriba is a doubt as well due to back trouble but the ex Barcelona youngster would be a boost for a struggling side here. Predicted XI: Gulacsi; Mukiele, Klostermann, Gvardiol; Henrichs, Laimer, Adams, Tasende; Nkunku, Szoboszlai, A. Silva.
Referee: Sandro Scharar
Assistants: Stephane De Almeida and Bekim Zogaj
Fourth Official: Alain Bieri
VAR: Fedeyi San
Assistant VAR: Lionel Tschudi All of the officials for this fixture are from Switzerland.