Defensive Woes Could Give Pep & Shakhtar Food For Thought
It’s a tricky trip to Ukraine for Manchester City on Wednesday as they kick off their 2019/20 UEFA Champions League campaign against a familiar face – Shakhtar Donetsk.
This will be the third consecutive season that the two sides have met in the group stage of Europe’s premier competition and unsurprisingly – the English champions have had the best of the head to head meetings so far.
City have returned victorious from three of their four meetings, winning the two fixtures last season by an aggregate score of 9-0.
The Ukranian champions did overcome Pep Guardiola’s side at the Metalist Oblast Sports Complex stadium back in December 2017, winning 2-1 although this was after City had already qualified for the knockout rounds.
Despite winning the Premier League two years on the bounce accumulating a points total of over 198 points over 72 games, there is still a sense Guardiola won’t rest until he has brought the holy grail of the Champions League back to the Etihad for the first time.
His time at Bayern Munich was overrided by a sense of failure despite dominating the Bundesliga due to the fact he never lifted the European Cup.
Guardiola hasn’t won the trophy since 2011 with THAT Barcelona team, and hasn’t got past the Quarter Finals with City.
He does boast an impressive win percentage of 60.2% in the competition though, and it’s not that much of a surprise to find that City are favourites to win this year at 4.60*.
MAN CITY TO REACH THE FINAL OF THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE – 3.00*
Although the context around this game is somewhat peculiar, with City going into the game on the back of a defeat.
Sporadic defensive issues were highlighted during the humbling 3-2 loss to newly promoted Norwich City on Saturday evening, and it will be very interesting to see what Pep and his coaching staff decide to do in Ukraine.
Nicolas Otamendi was one the main culprits in East Anglia and there were massive question marks over his position in the side before the news broke on Tuesday that John Stones will be out for 4-5 weeks with a muscular injury.
A problem position has now become a crisis position which leaves Otamendi as the only available senior centre half, meaning holding midfielder Fernandinho is almost certain to step in and start for the coming weeks.
City’s upcoming league fixtures should be easy enough for them to manoeuvre but this does make Wednesday night’s clash all the more captivating.
Shakhtar have a perfect record to the start of the Ukrainian Premier League season, sitting top on 21 points after seven wins out of seven.
They are out in front in style as well, scoring 23 goals, scoring at least two goals a game in each fixture. Getting on Luis Castro’s side at over 1.5 goals at 4.50* is a tasty proposition.
— City Xtra (@City_Xtra) September 17, 2019
SHAKHTAR DONETSK TO BEAT MANCHESTER CITY – 10.75*
Equipped with 32-year-old Brazilian forward Moraes, top scorer with seven goals and electric winger Taison, this is a Shakhtar side that will be licking its lips at testing City’s patched-up defence.
A draw with goals is priced at 6.20* which may capture some interest while both teams to score is sat at 1.80*.
Of course, City’s pulsating attack should ease any fears of any leaky plugholes at the back and with the form Raheem Sterling is in at the start of this season will likely to be keeping Shakhtar’s defence up at night.
The England international has six goals in six games so far and alongside top scorer Sergio Aguero, who has seven in five, City should have more than enough to out-score the opponent.
RAHEEM STERLING TO SCORE FIRST & CITY TO WIN – 5.50*
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