Manchester City takes on Hoffenheim in their final group stage game with the visitors needing a point to finish their group as toppers.
Manchester City’s unbeaten run in the Premier League came to a disappointing end against Chelsea over the weekend, and now Pep Guardiola will be looking for his team to bounce back with a good performance against visiting Hoffenheim. The Premier League Champions will need only a point to top their group, but Guardiola will be in no mood to take things lightly.
That defeat was only Manchester City’s second of this campaign in all competitions, having lost to Lyon in their Champions League opener back in September. Man City have since picked up their usual form to ensure they are in striking distance to finish the group in the top spot with Lyon expected to take up the second spot.
As for their opponents, Hoffenheim, the best they could hope for is a third-place finish and spent the next phase of their European adventure in the Europa League. Hoffenheim will be ruing their luck in their first ever season in the Champions League after late equalisers from Lyon in their two games would have changed the complexion of their debut campaign.
However, even a third place for the Germans is a difficult task at hand as they need to win their game against City and hope that Shakhtar who are two points ahead of them in third lose against Lyon. For in history of the last group stage fixture has seen plenty of drama in the past, meaning Hoffenheim have every chance to stay in Europe, albeit in the Europa League.
Team News & Tactics
With the fixtures list piling up Guardiola is expected to make some significant changes to his playing squad for the game against Hoffenheim. Even though City still needs some work to do before ensuring top spot, Guardiola might opt to rest few of his key stars against the Germans and keep his focus on the Premier League for the upcoming festive period.
Guardiola could bring Nicolas Otamendi into the heart of his side’s defence with Aymeric Laporte the candidate likely to be replaced by the German. The French defender has been a regular and Guardiola might feel the need to give him some rest. Alternatively, Otamendi could also replace John Stones. Danilo could even come into the starting lineup in place of Walker.
In midfield, Guardiola could give Phil Foden a rare start and provide him with some much needed playing time. Elsewhere, Gabriel Jesus could be the man to lead from the front, after Guardiola opted for Sterling up front against Chelsea during their loss, and the Brazilian could look to get a much-needed goal in the absence of star striker Sergio Aguero.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Danilo, Stones, Otamendi, Delph; Foden, Fernandinho, Gundogan; Mahrez, Jesus, Sane
As Hoffenheim look to ensure they at least end up playing in the Europa League in the next phase, Julian Naglesmann will make sure a strong team takes the field. Striker Ishak Belfodil will be one of the players to take the field after ending his six-game drought to net against Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga finally.
The Algerian forward is expected to partner Joelinton in attack with ample support from another one of last weekend’s goalscorer, Andrej Kramaric. The Croatian has scored in his previous eight games for club and country and will be tipped to shine against City.
Otherwise, Nagelsmann will be expected to name his strongest possible lineup with the likes of Zuber, Demirbay, and Schulz all supposed to take center stage against Man City. The German side are expected to field a four-man defence and overall a similar formation of three midfielders to thwart City.
Probable Lineup (4-3-1-2): Baumann; Bicakcic, Vogt, Hubner, Kaderabek; Zuber, Demirbay, Schulz; Kramaric; Belfodil, Joelinton
- Pep Guardiola is looking to lead his side to first place in the group stages for the ninth time in 10 seasons in the Champions League, only previously failing to do so in his first season with Manchester City (2nd in 2016-17).
- Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez has assisted more goals (four) than any other player in the Champions League this season,
- If Hoffenheim fail to beat Manchester City, they will become the first to team finish bottom of their group despite scoring 10 or more goals since Olympiakos in 2002-03 (11 goals)
- Earlier when the two teams met, the game had only three shots on target, and all were scored.
- Manchester City are unbeaten in their last six Champions League games against German sides.
Player To Watch
Since his heroics last season in Man City colours, Leroy Sane has failed to emulate that form this season for club or country. Since being dropped from the German squad for the summer’s World Cup, Sane has come in for criticism for his performances for City and Germany. Even Guardiola seems to have caught the idea and dropped Sane from few matches this season.
However, it’s been Gabriel Jesus who has come in for scrutiny for his bad performances this season, while Sane has hidden under this shadow of the Brazilian. Against Hoffenheim its time for Sane to talk on the pitch and show Guardiola that he is worthy of a regular place in this side for the rest of the season, domestically and in Europe.
Manchester City 2-1 Hoffenheim
Manchester City are a well-drilled team who rarely record back-to-back defeats in any competitions. Except for last season, where they lost three in a row, Guardiola knows what his side needs to bounce back from their Premier League loss to Chelsea. Against Hoffenheim, they might only need a point, but the Citizens are hungry enough to secure all three points.
Hoffenheim, on the other hand, are playing to be alive in Europe, albeit in the Europa League where they still hold the slimmest of chances, but for which they need to beat Man City. The gulf between the quality of players on both sides is enormous, and this is something that could come back to bite the German team, who might just have to ensure they qualify again next season.