Manchester City have reached the business end of the season and we find ourselves with another favourable European tie, this time against struggling Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund. With key players out for the visitors and City in scintillating form, can the Blues finally end their European hoodoo under Pep Guardiola or will there be more heartbreak on the horizon?
Kick-off: 20:00 BST (6/4/21)
Stadium: Etihad Stadium
Referee: Ovidiu Haţegan
Assistants: Octavian Șovre, Sebastian Gheorghe
Fourth official: István Kovács
VAR: Marco Di Bello
Assistant VAR: Paolo Valeri
Haaland is the top scorer in this season's Champions League with 10 goals.
Sancho has registered 104 goal contributions in 130 outings for Dortmund.
Dortmund drew 1-1 with City in Manchester and won 1-0 at home in the 2012/13 group stage. They went to the final the same season, losing 2-1 to Bayern.
Marco Reus has scored four and assisted two in 11 meetings against Guardiola’s Bayern.
Ilkay Gündogan spent five years at Dortmund between 2011 and 2016.
Guardiola has failed to win five of his 11 meetings with Dortmund (D1, L4).
Manchester City haven't conceded a goal in their last seven Champions League matches, last conceding on the opening night of the competition back in September.
Our last meeting with Borussia Dortmund came in 2018 whilst on our pre-season tour of the United States. The Blues lost 1-0 with Mario Götze scoring the winning penalty.
The City View:
Manchester City are flying. Recent wins before the international break over Borussia Monchengladbach and Everton were backed up on Saturday with a convincing 2-0 domination of Leicester City and our control over games has been simply remarkable. Even with a second-string line-up at the King Power everyone played their role, including Benjamin Mendy who scored the opening goal and put on a solid display. With our stars rested and primed for this tie, confidence will be sky-high heading into this game.
Kevin De Bruyne created three chances and a big chance in City's win over Leicester. The Belgian is gearing up at just the right time ahead of this tie and will be looking to add to his four Champions League assists and knock-out goal against Gladbach on Tuesday.
City have a fully-fit squad ahead of this game. Key players were rested against Leicester and are set to return for this one, including John Stones, Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva who have all been stalwarts this season. Alongside returns for those three, Kevin De Bruyne could be moved forward into a false-nine position with Phil Foden and Raheem Sterling on either side.
Joao Cancelo could be set for a return to the defence and with Kyle Walker recently playing for England in consecutive matches, Alex Zinchenko could be given the start on the opposite flank. João is currently one of two City players on yellow cards, the other being Fernandinho, and another would see them suspended for the return leg in Germany. Ruben Dias and John Stones have been part of a defence that have kept twenty-eight clean sheets this season and they'll be set to be reunited with Aymeric Laporte dropping out. Ruben Dias and John Stones have only lost one game when starting together this season and Pep Guardiola will want his key duo ready to face Erling Haaland on Tuesday night.
Potential XI: Ederson, Cancelo, Stones, Dias, Zinchenko, Rodri, Bernardo, Gundogan, Sterling, De Bruyne, Foden.
Our graphic doesn't account for the 3 additional substitutes that are added in the Champions League - likely being Scott Carson, Nathan Ake, and Eric Garcia.
The visitors: Borussia Dortmund
Head Coach: Edin Terzić
League position: 5th
Previous result: L 1-2 v Eintracht Frankfurt
Against Bayern Munich, Dortmund opted to use a 5-4-1 formation, with one of their midfielders marauding forward to help Erling Haaland on the attack. The black and yellow then held their line at all costs in defence to maintain their shape, thus leading to half-spaces being opened up in the final third, where Phil Foden and Kevin De Bruyne could thrive for City. With a midfielder pushing forward, this often also lead to unmarked Bayern midfielders further up the pitch.
If Dortmund use this formation against us, then the spaces left for KDB, Gundogan and co then that's where we'll win the tie. The Yellow Wall have tried and tested different formations in Europe and the Bundesliga, using a 4-2-3-1 and a 4-3-3, but in these formations, the side left too many gaps that they'll be desperate not to allow City to exploit. By crowding the box they'll force City to play around them and they'll be relying on a counter-attack when City commit too many forward or make a possessional mistake.
Their Bundesliga form has been appalling at times this season but with Erling Haaland, the competition's top scorer this term in their side, Dortmund will be confident that they can cause a major upset and expose City's defence - the best in Europe's top five leagues this season. Jadon Sancho will be a huge loss given the winger's immense goal contributions for the club when he starts, and up against Alex Zinchenko or Ben Mendy, he would've fancied his chances. The side still have Gio Reyna and Marco Reus though, who will be heavily relied on to create for Erling Haaland who will be largely isolated over the course of the two legs.
Erling Haaland has ten Champions League goals this term, four more than anyone else. The striker missed two big chances in Dortmund's home loss to Frankfurt in the fight for Champions League football at the weekend though and is currently on a four-game goal drought. He's heavily linked with City though and will hope to put on a show when the sides meet.
Jadon Sancho remains sidelined following a thigh injury picked up at the start of March. Dortmund's manager hopes that the situation of the forward will change in the next 7-10 days, but couldn't confirm a return date for City's former man. Dan-Axel Zagadou and Axel Witsel are also out of action for the foreseeable future but other than that Dortmund have a fully-fit squad. Erling Haaland is one booking away from suspension, meaning he'd be out of the second leg if he picked up a yellow card at the Etihad Stadium.
Raphael Guerreiro is back from injury and could replace Nico Schulz who scored an own goal at the weekend, whilst Jude Bellingham and Emre Can could also return to the XI.
Potential XI: Hitz; Can, Akanji, Hummels, Guerreiro; Delaney, Bellingham, Dahoud; Hazard, Haaland, Reus
Thorgan Hazard has major responsibility on his shoulders to replace Jadon Sancho's productivity and provide for Erling Haaland when Dortmund head to Manchester.
How can City avoid another upset?
Keep things simple - Pep Guardiola has often gotten into his own head and tweaked a winning line-up, which has led to poor results against Liverpool and Lyon more recently.
Strongest XI - Play the best XI. It sounds simple but against Tottenham in 2018/19, Guardiola chose to rest Kevin De Bruyne and Leroy Sane, two of his stars at the time. In the first leg, it's better to take no risks and try to have the tie wrapped up.
The advantage of the first-leg at home - City have gone out in three quarter-finals but have had it all to do in the home leg on every occasion. Having the home tie first could prove to play into the Blues' hands, as a great first result sets the platform going into the away leg.
Pep Guardiola's games against the top-six this season have proven that he'll refuse to make tweaks for this tie, and that will lead to a convincing Manchester City victory against Dortmund.