Manchester City can give their hopes of making the knockout stages of the Champions League a major boost as they travel to Spain to face Sevilla, who will looking to gain revenge for their late defeat in the reverse fixture.
Though scarcely deserved, Kevin de Bruyne’s stoppage time contribution in the match between the sides a fortnight ago appears a potentially crucial one in deciding the outcome of Group D. It leaves Man City on six points and level with leaders Juventus, while Sevilla have three points and sit alongside Borussia Monchengladbach, meaning that this is essentially a must-win game for Unai Emery’s side.
Despite coming away second best in terms of the scoreline, Sevilla were hugely impressive and their performance warranted a draw at the very least at the Etihad Stadium. As it was, they failed to make the most of their chances as tiredness in the closing stages perhaps cost them. Kevin Gameiro in particular will be determined to redeem himself here after missing two very presentable chances to put Sevilla back in front at 2-1, and with the quality his side have in wide areas, the Frenchman is sure to be given the quality service he requires.
The visitors, therefore, must try and find a way of nullifying the threat of Yevhen Konoplyanka, whose display in the reverse fixture was truly eyecatching, and he epitomised the considerable attacking threat they carry. The Man City defence has struggled to keep clean sheets in recent weeks, so will hope that the leadership qualities of captain Vincent Kompany will aid their cause, as well as the presence of centre-back partner Nicolas Otamendi, who returns to his homeland in good form.
A performance such as the one last time against Sevilla might not be enough this time, and City would have liked their game at home to Norwich City at weekend not to have proved as stressful as it turned out. Only a late penalty spared them from an unexpected draw after a terrible blunder from goalkeeper Joe Hart had enabled to well-organised Canaries to draw level, but the win keeps them top of the Premier League and in good spirits.
Youngster Kelechi Iheanacho was given his first league start for the club on Saturday alongside Wilfried Bony, and his promising form suggests that he may stand a chance of retaining his place here. Of course, City could do with main man Sergio Aguero to lead their attack, but Bony would be a very able replacement were he able to relax in front of goal and not try to hard amid all the expectation on his shoulders.
Defeat would not be the end of the world for City, but with a trip to Juventus coming up next it is key that they take something from Seville. David Silva is missing, along with Gael Clichy, Samir Nasri, Fabian Delph and Pablo Zabaleta.
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