Manchester City will lock horns with Croatian giants Dinamo Zagreb in their final Group C encounter of the 2019-20 UEFA Champions League.
Manchester City will be aiming to end the group stages of the UEFA Champions League on a high when they go head to head against Croatian outfit Dinamo Zagreb at Stadion Maksimir on Wednesday evening.
Pep Guardiola’s side have already made it to the knockout phase of the competition, having collected 11 points from five games. But, Manchester City have won just one of their last four games in all competitions, losing the Manchester derby in the Premier League this past week. And they will be hoping to bounce back to winning ways on Wednesday.
Dinamo Zagreb, on the other hand, are third in Group C, with just 5 points from 5 matches – a point below second-placed Shakhtar Donetsk. If they are to make it to the next round, Nenad Bjelica’s side will need a win against Manchester City and hope that Shakhtar drop points in their game against Atalanta.
The reverse fixture, played at the Etihad back in October, saw Guardiola’s side pick up a 2-0 win, courtesy second half goals from Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden. And ahead of the upcoming encounter, we at The Hard Tackle take a closer look at both the teams.
Team News & Tactics
Nenad Bjelica will have to make do without the services of defenders Kevin Theophile-Catherine and Dino Peric, both of whom are suspended for the tie. Sandro Kulenovic, Komnen Andric and Marko Leskovic are out with injuries, while Marin Leovac is also a doubt for the game.
Dinamo Zagreb have preferred to use a three-man backline in European encounters this season, but given the number of injuries they have in defence, the manager might opt to switch to a four-man backline which he has used regularly in the league.
Dominik Livakovic is the automatic pick in goal for the hosts, while Emir Dilaver will partner with captain Arijan Ademi at the centre of the backline, with the latter being a makeshift option. Petar Stojanovic and Francois Moubandje ought to be the two full-backs once again for Dinamo.
Nikola Moro will be the defensive midfielder offering cover to the backline against the Cityzens, while Spanish sensation Dani Olmo will provide the creative outlet from the middle of the park, along with Luka Ivanusec. The flanks are likely to be manned by Mislav Orsic and Damian Kadzior, who are the club’s top two scorers in league football this term.
Bruno Petkovic has been preferred as the lone striker by the manager, but he might change it up on Wednesday, handing a start to Mario Gavranovic, who scored the only goal of the game in the win against NK Varazdin last week.
Probable Lineup (4-5-1): Livakovic; Stojanovic, Ademi, Dilaver, Moubandje; Kadzior, Olmo, Moro, Ivanusec,Orsic; Gavranovic
Guardiola will be without John Stones and David Silva for the trip to Croatia as the duo picked up injuries in the derby this past weekend. Aymeric Laporte, Leroy Sane and Sergio Aguero remain sidelined while Fernandinho is suspended for the game due to accumulation of cards. Oleksandr Zinchenko is back in training, but is unlikely to start against Dinamo.
Who's on the plane to Croatia this afternoon?
Our #UCL travelling squad is confirmed…
— Manchester City (@ManCity) December 10, 2019
Given that Manchester City have sealed the top spot in Group C, Guardiola is likely to make some changes to the team. Ederson should keep his place in goal once again for the Premier League champions, but there are going to be wholesale alterations to the backline.
Joao Cancelo should replace Kyle Walker at right-back, while Benjamin Mendy is likely to come in on the opposite side at Angelino’s expense. Nicolas Otamendi, who made a substitute appearance and scored at the weekend, will start at the heart of the Manchester City defence along with youngster Eric Garcia.
Ilkay Gundogan ought to slot in as the defensive midfielder for City, while Bernardo Silva is likely to take up a spot in the middle of the park as well. Prodigious talent Phil Foden is in line for a rare start in the City midfield too, meaning both Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva are likely to be given a breather by the manager.
Gabriel Jesus should continue as the focal point of the Manchester City attack on Wednesday. Riyad Mahrez ought to get a look-in on the right flank, with Raheem Sterling continuing on the left.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Cancelo, Garcia, Otamendi, Mendy; Bernardo Silva, Gundogan, Foden; Mahrez, Jesus, Sterling
- Manchester City have lost just one of their last 14 Champions League matches (W10 D3), losing away to Spurs in last season’s quarter-final (1st leg).
- Dinamo Zagreb have only won one of their five Champions League meetings with English sides (D1 L3) – a 2-1 win at home to Arsenal in September 2015.
- Manchester City will finish top of their group for the fourth time in their last five participations in the Champions League, including in each of the last three seasons. After finishing 1st in their group in those campaigns, the Citizens reached at least the quarter-final stage on each previous occasion.
- Dinamo Zagreb have picked up five points in this season’s Champions League – only in 1998-99 (8 pts) have they won more in a single group stage in the competition (incl. group stage 1st). They have never made the knockout stage of the Champions League.
- Manchester City star Raheem Sterling has scored 19 goals in 46 appearances in the Champions League – he could become the sixth Englishman to reach 20 goals in the competition after Wayne Rooney (30), Paul Scholes (24), Frank Lampard (23), Steven Gerrard (21) and Harry Kane (20).
Player to Watch
It is no secret that Manchester City academy product Phil Foden is held in the highest of regard within the club and by first-team manager Pep Guardiola. However, the 19-year-old has struggled for game time this season, featuring in just 13 matches across all competitions, totalling up to just 360 minutes of action.
Foden’s only goal of this season came in the reverse fixture against Dinamo Zagreb, when he scored after coming on as a last minute substitute. With the youngster set to get a rare starting berth on Wednesday, he will be hoping to make the most of it and hopefully add to his goal tally for the season.
Dinamo Zagreb 2-2 Manchester City
Since their defeat to Manchester City on Matchday 2 of the UEFA Champions League, Dinamo Zagreb have lost just one of their last thirteen matches in all competitions. Manchester City, on the other hand, have been well below their best in recent fixtures, winning just two of their last seven across all competitions.
Manchester City have been vulnerable defensively all season and with Pep Guardiola likely to make wholesale changes to the starting XI on Wednesday, the hosts will definitely be in with a chance to cause an upset win, more so considering that they have not lost at home this season.
Dinamo Zagreb are likely to go all out in search of a win as they seek to qualify for the next round. However, this might leave their backline exposed, which Manchester City will exploit. We at The Hard Tackle are expecting this one to end in a 2-2 draw.