Manchester City kick off their 2017-18 UEFA Champions League campaign when they visit De Kuip to take on Feyenoord on Wednesday

Matchday 1 of the group stage of this season’s UEFA Champions League concludes on Wednesday, with teams in Groups E-H playing their first match. In Group F, Manchester City’s campaign commences with an away trip as they take on Feyenoord at De Kuip.

The Dutch side are making a return to Europe’s premier club competition after a 15-year hiatus, qualifying for this season’s tournament by winning the Eredivisie in 2016-17. Giovanni van Bronckhorst and co. have started their title defence in style, with four wins in four giving them a handy three-point advantage atop the table.

Manchester City on the other hand, qualified for the Champions League by finishing third in the Premier League last season. Pep Guardiola’s men have kicked-off their 2017-18 league campaign in strong fashion, second in the table with three wins and a draw and separated from Manchester United by just goal difference.

The two sides have never faced off against each other previously. Ahead of their first meeting on Wednesday, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.

Team News & Tactics

Feyenoord

Giovanni van Bronckhorst has a number of injury concerns to deal with ahead of the visit of Manchester City on Wednesday, with as many as four certain absentees from his matchday squad. Bilal Basacikoglu has a late fitness to determine his availability, the failure of which could leave the Feyenoord boss with a fifth absentee.

Defence is the worst hit area, with Sven van Beek (toe), Bart Nieuwkoop (hamstring) and Kenneth Vermeer (hand) sidelined with long-term injuries. While Vemeer’s void has been filled by Brad Jones, the defensive unit is likely to feature Kevin Diks, Jerry St. Juste, Jan-Arie van der Heijden and Miquel Nelom.

But, the biggest blow dealt to the Dutch champions is by the absence of star striker Nicolai Jorgensen. The Danish international, top scorer in the Eredivisie last season, sustained a hamstring injury in the win over Heracles on Saturday and is unavailable for the match on Wednesday.

Michiel Kramer is likely to play in Jorgensen’s stead, and lead the Feyenoord attack, supported by Steven Berghuis and Jean-Paul Boetius. Karim El Ahmadi will be the key man in midfield, with his performance crucial to ensure the stifling of Manchester City’s midfield.

Possible Starting XI (4-3-3): Jones; Diks, St.Juste, van der Heijden, Nelom; El Ahmadi, Toonstra, Vilhena; Berghuis, Kramer, Boetius

Feyenoord

Manchester City

Unlike his counterpart in the Feyenoord dugout, Pep Guardiola only has a couple of pressing fitness issues to deal with ahead of the trip to De Kuip to face Feyenoord. Club captain Vincent Kompany and goalkeeper Ederson are the players whose fitness he’s sweating over, with both likely to miss out.

Kompany is struggling with a calf strain he sustained while on international duty with Belgium last week. The Manchester City boss is expected to deal with his injury in a careful manner, considering his woes in the past.

If Guardiola decides to persist with a back-three on Wednesday, Danilo is the man likely to get the nod alongside John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi. Ederson, on the other hand, faces a late fitness test after he was stretchered off in the win over Liverpool on the weekend.

If the Brazilian is deemed unfit for the match, Claudio Bravo is expected to deputise in goal. Meanwhile, Raheem Sterling is in contention once again after missing the match against his former side due to a suspension.

The main selection dilemma Guardiola faces on Wednesday, though, is the inclusion of Leroy Sane and Bernardo Silva, with both players providing a good account of themselves in each of their previous outings. But, Sergio Aguero is likely to get the nod up front after a strong showing on Saturday,

Possible Starting XI (4-1-3-2): Bravo; Walker, Stones, Otamendi, Mendy; Fernandinho; Bernardo Silva, De Bruyne, David Silva; Jesus, Aguero

City

Key Stats

  • Feyenoord and Manchester City are facing off against each other in a competitive kitchen for the first time.
  • Feyenoord will have the chance to win their first match in the Champions League in 16 years, having made the group stage after a 15-year hiatus.
  • Feyenoord have won five of the twelve games against English opposition in Europe (D1 L6). Overall, they have won two more games (D5 L11).
  • Manchester City have won two of their five games against Dutch opposition (D2 L1). Their only loss came at Ajax in 2012 – a 3-1 defeat.
  • Manchester City scored three or more goals in 50% of their Champions League games last season, with an average of four goals per game being scored by each side.

Player To Watch

Claudio Bravo

Will Bravo provide a solid presence between the sticks? (Photo courtesy - Martin Bernetti/AFP/Getty Images)

Will Bravo provide a solid presence between the sticks? (Photo courtesy – Martin Bernetti/AFP/Getty Images)

Claudio Bravo was brought to Manchester City by Pep Guardiola with a lot of expectations. The Spaniard shipped firm first-choice goalkeeper up until then, Joe Hart without as much as giving him a chance to impose his complete faith in the Chile captain.

However, after a disastrous debut campaign, Bravo has become the backup shot stopper at the Etihad, with Ederson Moraes bought in the summer to add solidity and assurance between the sticks. With the Brazilian injured and likely to miss the match on Wednesday though, Bravo has some big responsibility on his shoulders.

Feyenoord are a strong attacking side that can test the stiffest of defensive units on their day. Therefore, it is likely that Bravo will be peppered with a lot of shots on Wednesday. A strong performance can, thus, potentially earn his side three vital points and the Chilean will need to be at his best on the night.

Prediction

Feyenoord 1-2 Manchester City

Manchester City open their 2017-18 campaign in the UEFA Champions League with a tricky away trip to Feyenoord. While the gulf in quality between the two squads is apparent, as Manchester United found out last season, the Dutch side should not be taken lightly at all.

Sure, they are missing the guile and tenacity of Dirk Kuyt, but the likes of Karim El Ahmadi,  and Jean-Paul Boetius and Steven Berghuis can sure spring a surprise or two. Having said that, with the creative outlet provided by Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva, Guardiola should have enough at his disposal to go back home with all three points.

The Hard Tackle, therefore, predicts a hard-fought 2-1 win for Manchester City, kicking off their latest campaign in Europe by clinching the maximum points.

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