Just two games separate Manchester City from a place in the Champions League group phase
City finished fourth in last season’s Premier League, this position denying them an automatic spot in the Champions League group stages, however with Pep Guardiola now in the hot-seat expectations are running high this season.
Guardiola may not have brought the Champions League crown to Bayern Munich in his time in charge, however he did steer Barcelona to European glory on two occasions and the Manchester City board are hopeful that this success can be replicated at the Etihad.
“Pep is happy (with the draw),” said Manchester City director of football Txiki Begiristain. “He is in a good mood and can’t wait to start the competition. He wanted to work in the Premier League and he’s there. The Champions League is obviously a big competition for him, for City and for everyone.”
Let’s not get too carried away though, as City must first overcome Steaua Bucharest in a two-legged affair before they can start thinking about the group phase. The first meeting between these sides takes place in Romania and whilst City’s last visit to that country ended in a 3-0 Europa League victory over Timisoara a couple of seasons ago, there is little doubt that Steaua are a step up in class.
City’s form away from home wasn’t the best under Pellegrini although they returned a couple of decent away results in European competition last term with victory over Dynamo Kiev and an excellent 2-2 draw with PSG in the Champions League quarter-finals. This gives us confidence in backing City to do the business in Romania tonight and whilst odds of 1/2 with Betfred may not provide us with the best of returns, this price should at least deliver us a winner tonight.
Should you be looking for something a little meatier, back a Manchester City win and both teams to score with Paddy Power going 23/10 for such an outcome. Guardiola has been splashing the cash since his appointment as manager, however despite John Stones being lured from Everton for just under £50million, the centre-back has had little time to settle and one feels that City’s backline is suffering from instability given that Vincent Kompany is sidelined and Joe Hart has been committing a few blunders for both club and country. As such, it wouldn’t be a massive surprise to see Steaua find the net in a losing effort tonight.
City may be less than stable at the back but they are certainly few issues at the opposite end. Sergio Aguero has banged in more than 25 goals in all competitions in each of the past two seasons and whilst he may have been less than prolific in the 2015/16 Champions League campaign, he nevertheless scored in the big away victories. He will certainly play a key role in tonight’s match and following his goal against Sunderland in the opening Premier League game at the weekend, we’ll be backing Aguero at 8/9 with 888sport on the Anytime Goalscorer market.
Live coverage on BT Sport 1 at 19:45, Tuesday 16th August 2016