Manchester City will be looking for only their second win in their last seven Champions League home games when they take on Europa League holders Sevilla in a pivotal encounter at the Etihad Stadium.
The two sides are currently level on three points, both having lost to leaders Juventus and beaten bottom club Borussia Monchengladbach, so the outcome of this double-header could prove highly significant when it comes to deciding who qualifies for the last 16. If City were to claim victory here, it may give them a much-needed psychological advantage when they make the return trip to Spain in two weeks time.
Manuel Pellegrini’s men did have luck on their side in their last Group D match in Germany as their defence was hardly rock-solid, conceding numerous chances to their opponents and having to rely on goalkeeper Joe Hart to make a series of stupendous saves to keep them in it, including one from the penalty spot.
When Monchengladbach did eventually go ahead at a time when Hart was seemingly his side’s only line of defence, City to their credit responded superbly and went on to dominate the remainder of the game and grab an equaliser through Martin Demichelis. There was only one team in it from then on and they were rewarded with a minute to go as Sergio Aguero stepped up to convert a penalty kick of his own.
The prolific Argentine then went on to score five against Newcastle United the following weekend, but an injury sustained while on international duty means that he misses out here, while it is also likely to come too soon for David Silva. As a result, City will be hoping that Wilfried Bony is up to the task and he certainly did his confidence no harm by scoring twice in Saturday’s resounding home win over Bournemouth.
He was a commanding presence in attack all afternoon, but it was Raheem Sterling who received even more of the attention after netting his first ever career hat-trick, representing a return to form for the often enigmatic 20-year-old. His finishing was much more up to scratch against the Cherries and he really seemed in the mood, so it is crucial for City here that he carries that form into this match, where his side cannot afford to show their visitors too much respect. After all, they are top of the Premier League thanks to playing a certain way which they do not exhibit often enough in Europe.
Sevilla know all about succeeding in Europe, having won the Europa League in each of the last two seasons, adding to their back-to-back wins of the competition in 2006 and 2007 when it was known as the UEFA Cup. There is an obvious step-up in quality when they play at this level, but a winning formula in continental football is priceless, which makes them such dangerous opponents for Man City here, but they have not made the best start in La Liga, having to win two of their last three games to move up to lower mid-table. Their biggest threat comes from striker Kevin Gameiro and winger Yevhen Konoplyanka, for whom they won the race to sign over the summer.