- Charley Longden
The Blues return to Portugal with a vengeance – Sporting CP vs Manchester City Preview
It is the first time Manchester City will have played in Portugal since the Champions League final defeat to Chelsea in May. Pep Guardiola's men will take on Ruben Amorim's Sporting at the Estadio Jose Alvalade. The match will kick off at 20:00 on Tuesday the 15th of February and will be shown live on BT Sport 2.
In his press conference - Guardiola confirmed that Jack Grealish, Gabriel Jesus and Cole Palmer are all unavailable for the match against Sporting. Guardiola said that Grealish is 'better', however, the Englishman is not quite ready for the game in Lisbon after suffering a shin injury in training. Kyle Walker won't be part of the squad that takes on Sporting either; the England international is currently serving a 3-match ban in the competition, although reports have stated that the club are attempting to appeal the ban. Zack Steffen has not travelled to Portugal after missing the visit to Norwich, too – the reason for his absence is unknown.
Ederson, Stones, Dias, Laporte, Cancelo, Rodri, De Bruyne, Bernardo, Mahrez, Foden, Sterling
The Blues steamrolled Dean Smith's Norwich 4-0 on Saturday with Raheem Sterling netting a perfect hat-trick and Phil Foden grabbing his 8th goal in all competitions this season. City were in full control of the showdown at Carrow Road, the 4-0 victory being an excellent way to prepare for the Champions League round of 16. Guardiola made several changes to the side that beat Brentford, proving how seriously the Catalan is taking this year's Champions League campaign. The Blues are seeking retribution after the disappointment of May last year.
Sterling blew Norwich away on the weekend, netting a perfect hat-trick, putting the Englishman 3rd in the race for Golden Boot with 10 league goals this season. Sterling has hit form at the perfect time for the Blues, with a crucial Champions League knockout tie on the horizon. The England international has surely cemented his name into the starting XI for the trip to Lisbon – however, you can never be sure what is going on in the genius mind of Guardiola. Sterling has 15 goal contributions in all competitions this season, with Riyad Mahrez being the only player in the squad to have more. The 27-year-old is having an excellent season on the quiet, and his mental strength is something to be admired by all after questions of his future were being asked just a few months ago.
Guardiola took the opportunity to give the kids a run out against the Canaries, with James McAtee, Liam Delap and Kayky all making an appearance off the bench. It was a Premier League debut for 18-year-old Kayky, who looks like another exciting prospect to play in this City side that is already oozing with class. Delap made an excellent cameo appearance after coming on for Foden on the 81st minute. The 19-year-old was sandwiched by Norwich defenders Grant Hanley and Ben Gibson in the 90th minute, winning a penalty for the Blues. The incredibly physical centre forward looks a real handful every time he comes on. City fans have every right to be excited for what the future holds.
City have made a good start in the Champions League this campaign, topping a tricky group that consisted of PSG, RB Leipzig and Club Brugge. The 2-1 victory over PSG at the Etihad was a real highlight, with the win against the French giants sending out an emphatic statement to the rest of Europe's elite. City need to continue the rich vein of form they are currently in, and ideally will be looking to come away from Lisbon with a handy lead.
Sporting's top of the table clash with Porto on Friday night spiralled into chaos after the final whistle, with a mass brawl resulting in 4 players being sent off. The 2-2 draw with Porto means that things stay as they are at the top of the Primeira Liga, with Porto sitting proud at the top of the table with 60 points, with Sporting just 6 points behind on 54. Sebastian Coates was sent off in the match with Porto after being shown a second yellow card on the 49th minute while Sporting were 2-1 up. Joao Palhinha and Bruno Tabata were the Sporting players that saw red after the game; Portuguese icon Pepe was shown a red card for Porto, as was substitute goalkeeper Agustin Marchesin. Paulinho and Nuno Santos were the men to get the goals for Sporting on the night.
Paulinho is Sporting's top scorer in the league with 9 goals, the 29-year-old signed for Sporting in the summer for a reported £14 million. The Portuguese centre forward has made an impressive start to time at Sporting, netting 12 goals in 34 appearances across all competitions. His current Champions League record isn't too bad either, scoring a goal every other game with 3 goals in 6 Champions League appearances.
Sporting finished 2nd in Group C in the group stage, with a record of 3 wins and 3 losses. Ajax took the top spot in Group C, winning 6 out of 6 including a 5-1 away win at Sporting on Matchday 1. Sporting scraped through the group stage on goal difference after both they and Borussia Dortmund finished on 9 points, with a +2 goal difference just being enough to take the Portuguese side through to the knockout stage. It was a group stage to forget for Turkish side Besiktas, who finished bottom of the group with 0 points and a goal difference of -16. Sporting found life easy against the Turkish side, beating them 4-0 at home and 4-1 away, how crucial those goals turned out to be in hindsight.
Sporting have a rich trophy-winning history, with the Portuguese giants winning the Primeira Liga 18 times, the Taca de Portugal 17 times and once winners of the European Cup Winners' Cup back in 1964. Sporting have never had their hands on the European Cup, their best run in the competition being back in 1982/83 when they reached the quarter-finals however were unable to progress past Real Sociedad.
Manchester City and Sporting CP have only faced off twice in history, both games were in the 2011/12 Europa League round of 16. The Portuguese side won the first leg 1-0 in Lisbon, City came back stronger in the second leg, winning 3-2 at the Etihad, however, Sporting were the side to progress due to the away goals rule. Sergio Aguero scored a brace for the Blues in the second leg, and Mario Balotelli scored a spot-kick, however, City just fell short in the end.
Referee: Srdjan Jovanovic (SRB)
Assistants: Uros Stojkovic (SRB) & Milan Mihajlovic (SRB)
Fourth Official: Novak Simovic (SRB)
VAR: Marco Fritz (GER)
Assistant VAR: Harm Osmers (GER)
Written by: @CharleyLongden
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