Seeking to avenge years of Champions League heartbreak, Manchester City begin their quest for European success against RB Leipzig at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday evening.
The hosts fell at the final hurdle to Chelsea in the 2020-21 final, whereas Leipzig were swiftly dispatched by Liverpool in the last 16.
Travelling to Porto with the favourites tag embroiled onto their crests, Man City manager Pep Guardiola finally set out to achieve his ultimate goal of Champions League glory with the Etihad outfit earlier this year, only for Kai Havertz to propel Chelsea to the crown and condemn City to more agony in Europe.
Guardiola may have led City to domestic silverware without so much as breaking a sweat over the past few years, but success in Europe’s premier competition still eludes them as they prepare to ply their trade in the group stage for the 11th consecutive season.
Not since the 2012-13 season have City failed to make it out of the group stage, but with 2021-22 Group A also including Lionel Messi’s Paris Saint-Germain, top spot is far from guaranteed for Guardiola’s men this time around.
However, City at least welcome Leipzig to the Etihad having won their last three Premier League matches without shipping a single goal – while also scoring 11 at the correct end of the pitch – but only a Bernardo Silva winner could separate them from Leicester City in a narrow 1-0 win at the weekend.
Not since September 2018 have City suffered defeat in the group stages of the Champions League – winning 13 and drawing four of their 17 such games since that loss to Lyon – and Leipzig do not exactly travel to Manchester with the wind in their sails.
A manager admitting that his side may not be ready for their next game is never a good sign, but those were the words spoken by RB Leipzig coach Jesse Marsch after his side’s woeful start to the new season continued against Bayern Munich.
With the Bavarian giants now under the tutelage of former Leipzig icon Julian Nagelsmann, goals from Robert Lewandowski, Leroy Sane, Jamal Musiala and Eric-Maxim Choupo Moting condemned Marsch’s men to a dampening defeat following previous losses to Mainz 05 and early leaders Wolfsburg
A 4-0 thrashing of Stuttgart represents the only silver lining in Leipzig’s season so far, and Marsch has admitted that Die Roten Bullen may “not be ready for such big challenges” in the form of Man City and PSG as they somehow attempt to scrape their way into the knockout rounds.
On another sour note, Leipzig have lost three of their last four Champions League games away from home without scoring a single goal, two of which saw them lose to English opposition in Manchester United and Liverpool 5-0 and 2-0 respectively.
Wednesday’s game marks the first-ever meeting between City and Leipzig in any competition, but Guardiola’s men faced German teams four times in last year’s tournament and came up trumps four times – beating Borussia Monchengladbach and Borussia Dortmund en route to the final.
Manchester City form (all competitions):
RB Leipzig form (all competitions):
We say: Manchester City 3-1 RB Leipzig
In spite of their struggles, Leipzig have attacking quality in abundance, and we would not put it past Marsch’s side to break the defensive resilience of the Premier League champions.
However, City have enjoyed a far superior start to the season and have their eyes firmly on the prize this time around, so we can only back Guardiola’s men to get the job done convincingly.