Manchester City will be eyeing a place in the Champions League quarterfinals when they face Borussia Monchengladbach on Tuesday.
While Manchester City moved one step closer towards their inevitable coronation, following a 3-0 triumph over Fulham on the weekend, the attention shifts to UEFA Champions League as they lock horns with Borussia Monchengladbach as the Puskas Arena on Tuesday.
The Sky Blues have all the advantage heading into this encounter, having registered a 2-0 win in the reverse fixture that served as the away game. It means they just have to avoid conceding three goals in order to advance through to the next round, joining the likes of Bayern Munich, PSG and Borussia Dortmund.
As for their opponents, a potential comeback opportunity at the Puskas Arena serves as the real element of hope in a season that has turned upside down following the announcement of coach Marco Rose’s departure to Borussia Dortmund next season.
Winless in their last eight competitive matches, the Foals have dropped to tenth in the Bundesliga and were knocked out of the DFB Pokal by Dortmund, of all clubs. As such, they have all the incentive in the world to come out all guns blazing in the pursuit of achieving the seemingly impossible this midweek.
Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will take a closer look at the two sides ahead of this exciting Champions League encounter at the Puskas Arena on Tuesday.
Tactics & Team News
Manchester City’s triumph over Fulham on the weekend saw Pep Guardiola rest some key players like Kevin De Bruyne, Kyle Walker and Ilkay Gundogan while the formation was shifted to a back three to accommodate Aymeric Laporte back into the starting lineup.
The Catalan is likely to revert all those changes this midweek, with John Stones and Ruben Dias renewing their central defensive partnership at the heart of the four-man backline while Walker and Joao Cancelo will occupy their preferred full-back positions.
In addition, the return of Gundogan and De Bruyne should offer that usual stability in midfield that could be vital in dealing with Gladbach’s aggressive line of press, although it will be interesting to see whether Rodri continues in the number six role ahead of Fernandinho.
The former Atletico Madrid midfielder certainly offers more assurance in the build-up while he also has the knack of scoring important goals that might just give him the edge over the experienced Fernandinho, whose lack of mobility might have been an issue against the proactive Gladbach midfielders.
Moving further forward, Guardiola may just retain the services of Sergio Aguero in the number nine role while Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez should return as part of the Catalan’s rotation policy that leaves Ferran Torres, Phil Foden and even Bernardo Silva out of starting contention.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Dias, Stones, Cancelo; De Bruyne, Rodri, Gundogan; Mahrez, Aguero, Sterling
Marco Rose’s defensive-oriented counter-attacking approach in the first leg should rapidly change in this encounter, especially in the early phases of the game where the German tactician will be hoping to use the pace of Marcus Thuram and Alassane Plea to land an early blow.
Both of these attackers, however, are currently in a bad run of form, so it won’t be surprising to see Rose being tempted to use Breel Embolo, although the likes of Jonas Hofmann and Lars Stindl remain guaranteed starters in the creative unit of the away side.
🎙️ #Rose: "@alassane_plea is a very talented player, he's just not having much luck in front of goal lately. He works incredibly hard for the team and is vital for us. If he keeps at it and works on improving himself, he will be back among the goals."#DieFohlen #UCL #CityBMG pic.twitter.com/G12mR4NfTH
— Gladbach (@borussia_en) March 15, 2021
The two are set to play a key role in offering that creative input in the final third, with Hofmann, in particular, known for his ability to thread in useful through balls that should appease runners like Thuram, Plea and Stindl.
Rose might bring Denis Zakaria back into the midfield unit, though, in order to add some stability. Gladbach’s potential aggressive approach should also tune in well with the Swiss international’s style of play.
Zakaria should thus provide grit to Florian Neuhaus’ grace in the middle of the park. But, the omission of Christoph Kramer could put pressure on the central defensive duo of Matthias Ginter and Nico Elvedi as the German international was capable of getting rid of loose balls and almost play the role of Casemiro in the number six position.
As a result, Zakaria could drop in deep because of the potential low defensive line that should create a lot of space in between the lines from defence to attack. The two fullbacks in Stefan Lainer and Oscar Wendt could also play a vital role in the build-up, so we might see a potential 2-3-3-2 in possession phases, with Thuram and Plea being used as runners.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Sippel; Lainer, Ginter, Elvedi, Wendt; Zakaria, Neuhaus; Hofmann, Stindl, Thuram; Plea
- Manchester City are unbeaten in their five games against Borussia Monchengladbach in the UEFA Champions League (W4 D1), scoring at least two goals in each of the victories.
- Borussia Monchengladbach have scored 16 goals to Manchester City’s 15 in this season’s Champions League. Only Bayern Munich (22), Barcelona, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain (all 18) and Borussia Dortmund (17) have registered more.
- Alassane Plea has contributed a team-leading eight Champions League goals in 2020/21 (five goals, three assists).
- Pep Guardiola – a three-time Bundesliga winner during his time in charge of Bayern Munich – has a 44.4 percent win ratio in meetings with Gladbach. It’s his worst return against any of the 26 German clubs he’s faced as a coach (W4 D3 L2).
- Borussia Monchengladbach have never previously won away to an English club in the European Cup/UEFA Champions League (D1 L3), while they have conceded eight goals in the last two trips – 2-4 in 2015/16 and 0-4 in 2016/17, both against Manchester City.
Player to Watch
Sergio Aguero broke his highly anticipated scoring duck in the recent win over Fulham. The penalty strike to beat Alphonso Areola was his first goal since January 2020, in what would have surely served as a sigh of relief for the Manchester City attacker.
On Tuesday, however, the Argentine international will have the opportunity to further extend his tally against Borussia Monchengladbach, having initially made his return to the pitch against the same opposition in the first-leg.
Aguero’s movements, combined with his ability to sniff goalscoring chances should definitely cause problems for the Gladbach backline, although the former Atleti forward might have to devise a plan to outfox the likes of Ginter and Elvedi in one-on-one duels, in which they are usually very strong.
Nevertheless, Aguero still remains a favourite to score at least one goal, provided he is given the start ahead of Gabriel by Guardiola this midweek.
Manchester City 2-0 Borussia Monchengladbach
Despite having nothing to lose, Borussia Monchengladbach are simply not in a position to pull off the unthinkable. They have struggled even to take points against relegation candidates like 1.FC Koln and 1. FSV Mainz in the Bundesliga, and are coming on the back of yet another embarrassing defeat at the hands of FC Augsburg.
Manchester City, in contrast, are stronger than ever and seemingly looking like the team to beat, alongside the likes of Bayern Munich, in this edition of the UEFA Champions League. Therefore, we are expecting the Citizens to secure yet another 2-0 victory to move towards the next round.