A tremendous all-round display away to Sevilla earlier in November sent City through after just four matches, a welcome contrast to last season when they had to produce two fine results to snatch second place against the odds. They come into this in top spot and a point clear of their opponents, who are still to book their passage to the knockout stages after being held to two draws by Borussia Monchengladbach. A win here for the Italians will be enough, however.
That match in Spain saw Man City turn out arguably their most complete performance of their five seasons in the Champions League, as they posed a major attacking threat from start to finish, were direct and incisive in the final third and put their chances away clinically when it mattered. They also needed goalkeeper Joe Hart to be on form, with the England star making a couple of sublime saves when Sevilla looked capable of completing a first half comeback.
It was a performance far removed from the limp one which saw them lose to Juventus on match day one, as a controversial Vincent Kompany goal was overturned by Mario Mandzukic and Alvaro Morata. That night made it clear that City must play to their strengths in Europe and not show too much respect to the opposition, however illustrious or brimming with quality.
But something else they cannot afford to do is defend badly and make too many individual errors, which is certainly what happened against Liverpool at the weekend. Without the injured Kompany, a desperately poor showing at the back was seized upon ruthlessly by the Reds, who created numerous scoring opportunities in addition to the four that they did score with thanks to the success of their high pressing game and through exploiting the acres of space left vacant by City, who dropped to third in the Premier League as a result. If Martin Demichelis and Eliaquim Mangala play alongside each other at centre-back in this one, they will have to tighten up.
Manager Manuel Pellegrini was far from happy with his side after that horror show, but one positive he could afford to draw on was Sergio Aguero’s return from injury. The Argentine, who found the net with a customary finish, was not risked for the final half hour despite City chasing the game, a decision which highlights the importance of him staying fit.
In Mandzukic and Morata, Juventus have two excellent strikers that are capable of tormenting any team in Europe, so cutting off the service to them will be important to City’s chances here. This match also provides another chance for City to cast their eye over Paul Pogba, with whom they have been heavily linked in recent times. With Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal gone, there is more expectation on the Frenchman’s shoulders to drive the team on this season.
Samir Nasri has been ruled out for six months for City, who are also missing Wilfried Bony and Gael Clichy. Playmaker David Silva could be in contention to make the substitutes’ bench.