Manchester City will look to rebound from their shock defeat to Crystal Palace when they face Club Brugge in Group A of the Champions League on Wednesday.

The UEFA Champions League has returned to action this midweek, and on Wednesday Manchester City will be playing hosts to Club Brugge at the Etihad. Both teams have done well in their respective European campaigns and will be eager to win this critical encounter.

The prospect of facing a team who had held Paris Saint-Germain to a draw and defeated RB Leipzig may have caused some concern for Manchester City, but Pep Guardiola’s men reaffirmed their dominance in Europe last month with a resounding 5-1 win over Club Brugge.

Despite the margin of their victories over RB Leipzig and Club Brugge, a 2-0 loss to Paris Saint-Germain means the Citizens currently sit second in Group A, and a surprise outcome on Wednesday may put them in a tricky situation. Moreover, the reigning English champions have had a couple of concerning domestic losses heading into this encounter.

After West Ham United halted their reign of domination in the Carabao Cup, the Citizens were again undone in front of their own supporters, falling to a surprise Premier League defeat against Crystal Palace, with Wilfried Zaha and Conor Gallagher getting on the scoresheet at the Etihad.

Despite testing their mettle against PSG and Leipzig and walking away with a solid four-point tally, Club Brugge’s bid to grab one over the surging Pep Guardiola machine proved too much for them. However, the Belgian champions have done exceptionally well to hold their footings in a tough group wherein many anticipated them to finish at the basement.

With Leipzig still to earn a point in Europe this season, Brugge will fancy their chances of clinching a top-three finish. Ahead of what could be a vital contest at the Etihad in terms of ratifications in Group A, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.

Team News & Tactics

Manchester City

Pep Guardiola does not have any fresh injury concerns, with Ferran Torres continuing to be Manchester City’s only casualty with a fractured foot, while Aymeric Laporte’s dismissal against Crystal Palace at the weekend means nothing in terms of suspension in Champions League context.

Taking into account the crucial Manchester derby this weekend, Guardiola is certain to shuffle the pack for this Champions League clash, with Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling expected to return to the starting XI. Kevin De Bruyne is presumably in jeopardy of losing his spot after lacklustre displays in the last couple of games, and Guardiola may be inclined to recall Ilkay Gundogan for this clash.

Pep Guardiola will set his team up in his favoured 4-3-3 formation; Ederson is ought to start between the sticks. Laporte might lose his place after a horrific display against Crystal Palace, with John Stones likely to replace the Spanish international. The Englishman could get the vital minutes after returning from injury last month. Ruben Dias is a certainty to pair alongside Stones.

Joao Cancelo could get a breather ahead of the weekend’s crunch tie; therefore, it should be Kyle Walker, and Oleksandr Zinchenko reprising the full-back roles. Rodri should start at the base of the three-man midfield unit once more, alongside Gundogan and Bernardo Silva.

The Spaniard will be essential in retaining Manchester City’s control on the game and keeping things ticking with his technical passing ability. In addition, he will need to ensure Hans Vanaken has a quiet performance. Gundogan will provide his late runs into the box while Silva brings tenacity and work-rate to the midfield.

Two players who played admirably in the reverse fixture were Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling. Both are in line to start in the attacking unit, offering trickery and goal-scoring impetus from flanks while Phil Foden could move into the false-nine role and exploit the gaps in the Club Brugge backline.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Stones, Dias, Zinchenko; Silva, Rodri, Gundogan; Mahrez, Foden, Sterling

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Club Brugge

Much like his counterpart in the Manchester City dugout, Club Brugge boss Philippe Clement has no fresh injury issues, with midfielder Eder Balanta the only player unavailable for this game due to a suspension after picking up three bookings in as many games so far. So Ruud Vormer and Mats Rits come into contention to slot into midfield.

Highly-rated winger Noa Lang will be banned for his team’s next league game, but that won’t hinder his prospects of starting here, while former PSG academy product Stanley Nsoki emerges from a domestic suspension to replace Brandon Mechele in defence.

Although Clement has used several formations this term, the visitors ought to set up in a 4-4-1-1 formation in front of Simon Mignolet. Guarding the former Liverpool goalkeeper in central defence would be the emerging pairing of Jack Hendry and Nsoki, with Clinton Mata and Eduard Sobol operating as the full-backs, who will likely be pinned back by their Manchester City counterparts.

Captain Ruud Vormer and Mats Rits will fit in the double midfield pivot. Both are precise passers on the ball and will be looking to provide solid foundations alongside an attacking impetus from the middle of the park.

Veteran goal-scorer Bas Dost has undoubtedly placed himself in the running to lead the line with his match-winning brace last weekend, and he may well be handed a start with Kamal Sowah struggling for form of late. Lang, Hans Vanaken and Charles De Ketelaere will sit just behind Dost. Star-man Vanaken will provide the creativity and decisiveness in the final third slotting in the No. 10 role while offering an additional goal threat for the visitors.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Mignolet; Mata, Hendry, Nsoki, Sobol; Rits, Vormer; Lang, Vanaken, De Ketelaere; Dost

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Key Stats

  • Manchester City have won the only meeting between the two clubs, a 5-1 victory in Bruges.
  • The Citizens have won six of their seven games against Belgian sides (L1), scoring 21 times in the process.
  • Since defeating Chelsea 1-0 in the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1995, Club Brugge have gone winless in their last 13 meetings against English opponents (D3 L10) in all European competitions.
  • Club Brugge have put together a five-game undefeated run away from home across all competitions prior to their visit to the Etihad. Their last clean sheet in the UEFA Champions League on opponent territory was in August 2019.
  • Manchester City are in danger of losing three consecutive matches in all competitions, which they have never done since April 2018.
  • The Citizens can take confidence from their seven-game winning streak on home turf in the Champions League, in which they have scored at least twice in each game.

Player to Watch

Hans Vanaken

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The Belgian international has helped Club Brugge dominate the Belgian Pro League for years now and has recently taken massive strides at the European and international stage. Vanaken has recently established him as a regular in the Belgian national team and has performed admirably of late, producing three goals and four assists from just three FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

Arguably the best attacking midfielder in his domestic league, the 29-year-old is a tall, technical, and talismanic presence in Club Brugge’s midfield unit. While he lacks pace, his vision, intelligence, and wand of a left foot create an impression that he has all the time in the world to play his slick passes.

His tendency of gracefully entering the box at the right moment to finish off the chances elegantly has become his trademark style. A player for big occasions, Vanaken has already scored three goals and assisted one in three Champions League appearances and will be looking to leave a big impact on Wednesday’s game.

Prediction

Manchester City 3-1 Club Brugge

In theory, Club Brugge may not stand a chance against their formidable opponents but taking into account Manchester City’s recent back-to-back defeats, the Bruges camp would be optimistic regarding their prospects of eking out a result at the Etihad. But it is easier said than done against a star-studded City in front of their own supporters, seeing as the gulf in quality between the two sides became painfully apparent in the reverse fixture.

Moreover, Club Brugge will be facing a wounded animal in Manchester City, with Pep Guardiola demanding a positive reaction from his players after recent setbacks. The Hard Tackle sees the result going only one way and predicts a comfortable 3-1 victory for Pep Guardiola & co. ahead of the enticing Manchester derby this weekend.

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