Manchester City shift their attention towards the UEFA Champions League as they travel to Budapest to face Borussia Monchengladbach in the Round of 16.
Manchester City’s outstanding run of form in domestic competitions will be tested on Wednesday when they take on Borussia Monchengladbach at the Puskas Arena in the UEFA Champions League. The venue serves as the home location for the Bundesliga outfit due to government restrictions that prohibit the foreign team to travel to Germany.
Performing outside Borussia Park is certainly a big ask for the Gladbach side, especially if we are to consider their recent run of results. Indeed, after an impressive start to 2021, the Foals have failed to win any of their last four Bundesliga matches – a run of form that has seen them drop below Union Berlin in the Bundesliga table.
Gladbach were also criticised for their performances in the Champions League stage, luckily qualifying to the knockout thanks to excellent performances against Shakhtar Donetsk over the two legs.
Their midweek opponents, Manchester City, in contrast, are currently the most in-form team in Europe. They are on an 18 game-winning run in all competitions and are yet to lose a single game since November.
The Sky Blues are already running away with the Premier League title – something Bayern Munich are yet to do in the Bundesliga this campaign. In addition, they seem to have finally gotten over their early-season injury-woes – making them the undisputed favourites heading into this game.
Team News & Tactics
Despite the contrasting run of form, Gladbach do still have an excellent chance of salvaging something from this tie. Their coach Marco Rose is one of the best tacticians in the Bundesliga, and his 11 different variations in pressing could be on show once again at the Puskas Arena on Wednesday.
One of the biggest problems Gladbach faced in their recent defeat to Mainz is the lack of penetration against a deep-defensive line from Bo Svensson’s men. A defensive mistake from Matthias Ginter certainly didn’t help their cause either, but the German international is likely to operate in a more familiar four-man backline alongside Nico Elvedi this midweek.
The Foals also won’t have to deal with a deep defensive block. In fact, Manchester City’s likely dominance in the game could allow Rose to take advantage of his pace wide attacker in Marcus Thuram.
The Frenchman notably starred in the draw with Real Madrid in the group stage, scoring two goals. His pace and direct runs forward, could, therefore, be vital in Gladbach’s chance creation, with the attacker particularly looking to exploit the space left behind by the Man City full-backs.
The onus, however, will be on Florian Neuhaus and Jonas Hofmann to find those long diagonal passes in behind the backline while other attackers in Lars Stindl and Alassane Plea is hoping to create problems from central areas.
That said, Gladbach do need backup in central midfield, where Man City often tend to create a numerical advantage. As such, the wide attacker in Hofmann could drop into a more defensive role, creating a situation 4-3-3 or a 4-4-2.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Sommer; Lainer, Ginter, Elvedi, Bensebaini; Kramer, Neuhaus; Hofmann, Stindl, Thuram; Plea
Pep Guardiola is unlikely to face any injury-related issues heading into this game so he will be unleashing the usual 4-3-3 with Rodri hoping to replace Fernandinho at the base of the setup. His ability to win back possession for his team is set to play a crucial aspect in Man City’s approach in this game.
Gearing up for Gladbach! 🔜🇩🇪
— Manchester City (@ManCity) February 23, 2021
Kevin De Bruyne and the in-form Ilkay Gundogan should continue in more advanced midfield roles. One common phenomenon in Pep’s tactics this season has seen the latter often drive forward during attacking phases, with one full-back, particularly Joao Cancelo, dropping into a more central to provide the added balance.
It has worked quite well for them too, with Gundogan netting 11 goals in the Premier League this season. The German has also netted twice in the Champions League – making him one of the vital cogs in the away side’s attacking play.
Speaking of which, Guardiola is likely to make a couple of changes to the offensive trifecta that started against Arsenal. Riyad Mahrez and Bernardo Silva are both set to make way for Gabriel Jesus and Phil Foden as they look to continue their excellent form in the front of goal.
The biggest contributors for Man City this season, though, have been their defenders. The club has conceded only 15 goals in 25 league matches – one of the best records in Europe. Ruben Dias and John Stones have been the main protagonists and the duo will be hoping to maintain their record against a sharp attacking Gladach unit this midweek.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Stones, Dias, Cancelo; De Bruyne, Rodri, Gündogan; Sterling, Jesus, Foden
- Gladbach have found the back of the net in every one of their nine Champions League home games, scoring 17 times in total.
- Dortmund striker Erling Haaland (eight), Paris Saint Germain’s Neymar, Juventus’ Alvaro Morata and Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford (all 6) are the only players in this season’s competition to have scored more goals than Gladbach forward Alassane Plea (five).
- Plea is also joint third in the assists table with three – one less than Kevin De Bruyne.
- Borussia Monchengladbach beat City 4-2 on aggregate in the 1978/79 UEFA Cup quarter-finals, en route to lifting the trophy.
- Manchester City have reached the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League for the eighth season in a row – the longest current such run for an English team.
Player to Watch
Amid all the Gundogans, the Fodens and the De Bruynes, it is Raheem Sterling Gladbach need to be most afraid of. The Manchester City winger has led the team from the front, in this ongoing campaign, having been involved in a total of 23 goals in 33 competitive matches so far.
Apart from his productivity, the Englishman could be dangerous with his unpredictable movements in the final third and the ability to squeeze through tight spaces due to his low centre of gravity. It should make things particularly difficult for Matthias Ginter, who is not among the most agile centre-backs.
Therefore, Marco Rose needs to come up with a masterplan to contain the threat of Sterling on the flanks. A lot could depend on how Stefan Lainer performs in the right-back position, though.
Borussia Monchengladbach 0-2 Manchester City
With a home advantage that is obsolete, to say the least, Borussia Monchengladbach aren’t likely to make an impact against a Manchester City that have appeared rock solid at the back. And with De Bruyne back, the Cityzens are clear favourites to seal a comfortable victory at the Puskas Arena this midweek, as they continue their march under Pep Guardiola this season.