The Reds of FC Bayern Munich face a battle against Manchester City FC in Tuesday’s Champions League match. City, with a lot to prove after their last meeting, will be coming out swinging. Manager Manuel Pellegrini expressed in a recent interview that he wanted to change the image that City had left of themselves with a 3-1 loss at home the last time these two teams met. He did admit, however, that the upcoming Premier League match was the more important of the two in his mind when pressed.
There has been much conversation about that being the reason Pellegrini is choosing to start Joe Hart in goal today rather than their resident giant, Costel Pantilimon. Speculation is that he may want to have Pantilimon ready for Saturday’s match against Arsenal. He may however, just be looking to give Hart a chance for a little payback. Sitting on the bench has given him a hunger to prove he has a future in the Premier League, and it would be unlike him to pass up an opportunity like this. He may end up making the difference for City on Tuesday.
FC Bayern fans expect to see the return to health of their 22-year old midfielder, Thiago Alcantara, after an ankle injury. The Spanish transfer will be looking to ensure that his new German fans are as happy as he is about his transfer to the team. This battle against Manchester City will give his a chance to remind his FC Bayern teammates what he brings to the table from the middle. If he is able to settle down into the role, he will be a key to Munich’s ability to create chances against the American goalie who fared so poorly in their last meeting.
He will have to be creative with his approach to get around a vigilant Pablo Zabaleta on the defense. Zabaleta can change the game quickly, turning intercepted balls in from unwary midfielders into a speedy counter-attack. He has no hesitation on his advance, confident with Aleksander Kolarov being able to maintain the defensive zone as he presses to create chances for the deadly City scorers. He can be a real game changer if Thiago does not establish his ability to challenge in the middle early on.
Munich manager Guardiola was careful not to express over-confidence in his comments about the match. He had praise for City having made it to the knockout rounds after not making it in years past. Many thought he sounded very smug, however, when he stated that he believed that there was “no guarantee” that they would win Tuesday’s match.
Given the way that City has played away this season, one might think that Guardiola has a reason for appearing smug. They have won only two of their away matches all season in the Premier league, and both of those could have gone either way. Manchester City has an embarrassment of riches with the likes of Sergio Aguero, Samir Nasri, and Alvaro Negredo all working together on the attack. They like to come out and score early, but their fatal flaw in the away games has been finishing.
They almost gave up one of their two away-wins a couple of games back on December 4th, when they almost gave up a 3-0 lead. West Brom was able to score two late goals in the last four minutes and threaten to keep City from the three points. In comments after the game, Pellegrini wondered if the team had checked out early and started thinking about the next game without finishing the one they were in. Given Pellegrini has mentioned the problem publicly, it is certain that he will have made the point in the locker room as well. This should not be an issue in Tuesday’s match. If Manchester City FC is able to keep their focus for 90 minutes, there is no reason that they cannot win this battle against FC Bayern Munich, and establish themselves as a dominant team in the international matches as well as in the Premier League.
by Jim Malone