Champions League action returns this week as we approach the business end of the season. The quarter-finals of the premier club competition in Europe commences this week with some blockbuster clashes awaiting for us football fanatics. Title-hopefuls Manchester City take on German giants Bayern Munich in the first leg of the quarters on Tuesday night.
Man City have been starved of European success, falling short time and again in the Champions League. The feeling around Etihad and in general the whole of Europe is that this could finally be their year, thanks in particular to the addition of striker Erling Haaland. The Citizens are inching ever closer to that elusive trophy and getting past a solid Bayern Munich team will no doubt give them invigorate them in their pursuit. They were last in action against Southampton on Saturday evening as they put the Saints to sword with an impressive 4-1 win at Saint Mary’s. City’s title defense and their quest for a three-peat got a massive boost with league leaders Arsenal dropping points, narrowing the gap down to six points. Pep Guardiola will hope his side can use this momentum and carry on in the same fashion till the end of the season, with a treble still very much possible.
Bayern Munich begun a new era recently as Julian Nagelsmann was fired and replaced by Thomas Tuchel at the end of March. Since then, Tuchel has taken charge of three games, including a derby against his old club Borussia Dortmund in very first game. The Bavarians sit at the top of the league following their latest win in the league over Freiburg on Saturday, but were knocked out of the DFB Pokal last week, putting pressure on Tuchel from the get go. Bayern Munich have been unconvincing domestically, not being as dominant in the Bundesliga as in previous seasons, which some speculate, led to the exit of Nagelsmann. However, in Tuchel now, they have an experienced and tactically sound coach who has previously tasted success in Germany and also in Europe in his last venture with Chelsea. That Champions League win for Tuchel came against Pep Guardiola and Man City in 2021, and now he must prepare to take them on once again. Bayern are hunting for their seventh overall UCL title, and their second in four seasons. In their way stand the formidable Manchester City who are far from pushovers, and it will take a humongous effort from the Bayern players to get past the blue side of Manchester.
WHEN & WHERE?
Date: Tuesday, 11th April 2023.
Venue: Etihad Stadium, Manchester.
Time: 8.00 pm BST.
Manchester City have a near-full strength squad with almost all key players available to Pep Guardiola. Phil Foden, however, will be missing out on the action as he continues to recover from an appendix surgery. Not many changes are expected for the Man City side that defeated Southampton over the weekend, with Guardiola choosing to keep a consistent 11 in the run-in to the season.
Bayern Munich will have a notable absentee in striker Eric Choupo-Moting as he battles a knee injury. With the Cameroonian the only recognized striker in the team, Tuchel will have to now choose from the likes of Thomas Muller and Serge Gnabry to lead the line. Midfielder Leon Goretzka is expected to return after being rested against Freiburg on Saturday. Lucas Hernandez and Manuel Neuer are long-term absentees.
The UCL quarter-final where Manchester and Munich meet, probably has the most hype among all the fixtures. Manchester City and Bayern Munich meet once again in the UCL, albeit for the very first time in the knockout stage. The two sides have met on six occasions previously, all coming in the group stages of the competition, and the record could not be tighter between them, with both teams winning thrice each. The Bavarians have scored 10 goals with the Citizens scoring 9. This fixture has always delivered the entertainment in the past and this time, with the stakes higher than before, it is all set to be an exciting battle of wits and strength.
There are many storylines heading into this two-legged tie. Leroy Sane and Pep Guardiola facing their former clubs, Thomas Tuchel and Guardiola going head-to-head yet again and the returns of Erling Haaland and Sadio Mane to the respective countries where they enjoyed much success. And lest we forget, Joao Cancelo- the Manchester City loanee to Bayern Munich- returning to Etihad with the Bavarians. The footballing gods have blessed us with a match-up that has so much to offer and the potential of being an iconic and classic game of football.
Guardiola and Tuchel are two tactically outstanding coaches who have locked horns precisely ten times before. While the Spaniard generally had the upper-hand while the two were in Germany, (Pep with Bayern Munich and Tuchel with Mainz and later Borussia Dortmund) Tuchel got him back after landing the Chelsea job and defeating him in their first meeting in England. The most memorable meeting between the two was the Champions League final in 2021, where the German coach came out on top, winning 1-0. Dubbed ‘Pep’s Kryptonite’ , the wily German will return to England with a much stronger team at his disposal this time around, and it will be intriguing to see how he deals with City and Erling Haaland in particular.
Guardiola, like City fans, will be still smarting from the pain of that final in Portugal, with that season being the closest the blue half of Manchester has ever come to winning the big-eared trophy. However, now, Bayern and Man City come into this tie with different narratives. City, while struggling to defend their domestic title, have been the epitome of consistency, having won their last eight games in all competitions, including a round of 16 win over another German opposition RB Leipzig in a scoreline that ended 7-0. They have scored 31 goals in that period, conceding just 4 in the process.
Bayern Munich, on the other hand, are going through a somewhat troubled period. Although they are top of the league at the moment, the sacking of Julian Nagelsmann midway through the second half of the season sent shockwaves through the footballing world. Thomas Tuchel was brought in almost immediately and after a resounding derby win, he and Bayern were served a timely warning as Freiburg knocked them out of the DFB Pokal.
Pep Guardiola has switched to a 3-2-4-1 recently, giving his side an extra player in the midfield, allowing them to exert even more dominance than before. However, facing Pep is always like a box of surprises, you never know what you are going to get. Tuchel will be aware of his Catalan counter-part and his ability to spring surprises on the opposition, and must do well to prepare for all situations.
The Bavarians have been imperious in the Champions League so far, brushing aside the likes of Inter Milan, Barcelona and Paris St-Germain, scoring 21 goals and conceding just two, on the road to the quarter-finals. Furthermore, they are unbeaten in their last four visits to England. The stats back the Germans to have a good outing in the rainy Manchester, but Manchester City are never one to shrink away from a challenge. The Citizens have turned it up a notch in the last few weeks and rest assured they will come at the Germans with everything they have.
An already tantalizing game has been made even more thrilling with the various narratives around it, and the prospect of whichever team winning the tie, entering the next stage as the clear favourites to the title. It certainly has the makings of a game for ages and it will be intriguing to see who emerges on top.
Manchester City lineup vs Bayern Munich: Ederson; Manuel Akanji, Ruben Dias, Nathan Ake; John Stones, Rodri; Riyad Mahrez, Kevin de Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan, Jack Grealish; Erling Haaland.
Bayern Munich lineup vs Manchester City: Yann Sommer; Joao Cancelo, Dayot Upamecano, Matthjis de Ligt, Alphonso Davies; Leon Goretzka, Joshua Kimmich; Kingsley Coman, Jamal Musiala, Sadio Mane; Thomas Muller.