If a team was a victory away from a 50% win ratio over the mighty Bayern Munich many would say that it was a pretty good record.
Given the heritage and present day standing of the Bundesliga leaders and five time European Champions, it could be considered as something of an achievement if Manchester City edge out the Germans at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday evening.
Achievement is not a word usually associated with City in the Champions League, unless it is accompanied by a prefix of ‘under’.
Whereas their illustrious opponents carry a CL ‘co-efficient rating’ of Number 2, City are ranked at a lowly 17th place, the result of three season’s of 3rd, 4th and 2nd places in various Groups of Death.
It’ll take an unlikely, but nonetheless possible, third win in six meetings with Munich, for City to set out on the Road to Rome in early December with any sense of purpose.
A disgraceful pittance of one point from six against CSKA Moscow – originally viewed as the whipping boys of Group E – will have been City’s undoing if they ultimately crash out of European football’s showcase competition, before the knockout stages.
City could do with Roma winning in Moscow to ensure Manuel Pellegrini’s side are in charge of their own fate for the final game in the group stage…but first they must pip Pep Guardiola’s men.
In the event of teams being tied on points, the head-to-head record is the first criteria applied to differentiate between the sides. Were City to finish level with CSKA, the Muscovites would progress.
City’s destiny would still be within their own grasp if they have five points on the board going into a shootout in Rome on December 10th, trailing the Italians by two points. I mean, whoever heard of any team from Italy putting up the shutters, strangling the life out of a game and going for a 0-0 outcome?
Obviously my meds have yet to kick in because Read But Never Red is being written under the delusion that a severely weakened Manchester City will beat Bayern Munich, but why not?
Yaya and Fernandinho are banned after the double sending off against CSKA, while David Silva, Edin Dzeko and Aleksander Kolarov are all injured.
Sergio Aguero and Stevan Jovetic missed Monday training but Pellegrini says both are available. Deprived of five potential starters, the City boss may be tempted to go with a lone striker, pack the midfield and try to upset the rhythm of Guardiola’s tiki taka style.
Bayern will also be missing key players Lahm, Alaba, Martinez, Badstuber and Alcantara, but before City get their hopes up too high, it does mean the likes of Lewandowski, Robben, Gotze, Ribery, Muller, Alonso, Boateng and Neuer are all likely to be active combatants.
City are the hardest hit of the two sides with injuries and suspensions.
The defence should probably pick itself and be the same as played in the 2-1 win over Swansea, but if Sergio spearheads a 4-5-1 or a 4-1-4-1 formation who comprises the midfield?
Fernando could be invaluable in breaking up Bayern’s forward play, Nasri and Milner are surely certain starters, which would suggest two from three e.g. Lampard, Jovetic and Navas.
For all the fuss kicked up about City’s riches and squad depth, the present situation leaves Pellegrini short on attacking options from the bench. Is it a chance for Jose Angel Pozo to make his mark if things aren’t going City’s way, or even Austrian prospect Sinan Bytyqi?
It might be asking a lot of the youngsters but with a reduced 21-man CL squad, shorn of five senior players, needs must.Caballero, Mangala, Sagna and Boyata should be the other benchwarmers.
It’s well documented that City’s Abu Dhabi owners have set their stall out to win the Champions League, but that clearly isn’t happening anytime soon. In this, City’s fourth consecutive qualification for the CL, it appears the team has regressed, potentially failing to build on the last 16 place of 2013/14.
As ever a perspective is required and whilst undeniably underwhelming this season, City were impaired by the constraints placed upon them by UEFA’s Financial Fair Play punitive measures.
In essence City didn’t even touch the £49m transfer pot that UEFA deigned to allow the club to spend last summer. On the contrary, Messrs Soriano and Begiristain reported a £9m profit on transfer fees.
One wonders if that was all about making a statement to Platini – a metaphorical V-sign – but one that undoubtedly hindered Pellegrini’s plans.
Theoretically City had £58m to spend in transfer stakes, but the reality is the money may not have been guaranteed until deadline day drew to a close.
Indeed, the bulk of Alvaro Negredo’s spouse-induced £25m shift back to Spain, isn’t actually payable by Valencia until the summer of 2015, so maybe City had no option.
It is bona fide, admissible defence mitigation for Manuel, but even that doesn’t explain the wretched performances in the second half in Moscow, and in the return leg with CSKA.
Rapidly becoming a bit of a cliché, City must, nonetheless, ‘Fight ‘Till the End’ display passion, determination and a strong work ethic to press, press and press again against the imperious Germans.
Bayern’s well drilled and extraordinarily loud travelling support – complete with a bloody irritating drummer – will certainly create more of an atmosphere than in the CSKA fixture.
Come to think of it a quiet night and a lunar landing would probably have provoked more of an atmosphere than an eerily, disturbingly muted Etihad crowd on Fireworks Night.
City fans absolutely have to make noise – and positive sounds at that – to help the team in times of adversity.
The loyalty of the supporters is beyond question e.g. the third tier of English football and 28,000-30,000 home attendances, BUT the Etihad crowd as a whole – not just the ‘singing section’ – needs to pump up the volume.
It’s all or nothing so maybe remember the dark days of Lincoln, Wycombe and York away and live for the moment – it’s CITY v Bayern Munich, one of the greatest clubs in world football…and it’s there to be won with endless toil and perhaps even an Aguerrrooo moment.
Let’s all go for it #TOGETHER!
By David Walker
Dedicated to our dear friend Suzy Bookbinder on this day, one of the two most painful anniversaries of her life. Empathy and sympathy always – hang tough sweet lady blue x
www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu