Here we go again...
Manchester City comes to Allianz Arena for the third time in four years, a bout that has become more enticing with every passing group-stage fixture. Bayern Munich's rivalry with the Citizens is not as storied as others (AC Milan, Arsenal, Manchester United, or Real Madrid), but with six meetings on the docket, it is quickly becoming one.
Both teams come into this tournament after Spanish giants flushed them out. They each have something to prove in Europe – Manchester City trying to prove that they belong with Europe's elite and Bayern trying to prove that they still are one of Europe's elite. It will no doubt be one of the biggest matches in Europe, all eyes pondering what the next chapter in this budding rivalry will be.
The Match (5th Meeting)
Location: Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany
Head: Alberto Undiano Mallenco (Spain)
FC Bayern: 1 W, 1 D, 2 L – 6 YC
Time converter at worldtimebuddy.com
Television and Streaming:
US: Fox Sports 1 | HD, Fox Sports GO, Fox Soccer 2Go, ESPN Deportes, WatchESPN
Canada: Sportsnet World Now
UK: Sky Sports 5 | HD, Sky Go, BBC Radio 5
Germany: SRF, Sky Go
FC Bayern: WWDWL
UEFA Champions League: 2 W, 0 D, 2 L
Largest Victory: 3-1 (UEFA Champions League: October 2, 2013, Manchester)
Largest Defeat: 0-2 (UEFA Champions League: December 7, 2011, Manchester)
In his quest to find the perfect formational formula, Pep Guardiola continues to have new variables that he has to balance. The latest of which is Holger Badstuber, whose thigh tear will keep him out for an extended period of time. He now has only three center backs to concoct with.
The prevailing assumption now is that the tactical drawings involving a three back system will be tucked away for now, but a restoration of the traditional four-back set will not be a big transition. In every Bundesliga match thus far, Bayern has shifted to a back four at one point or another. Mehdi Benatia has yet to feature, making Jérôme Boateng and Dante the likely starters in defense. However, with Guardiola throwing Xabi Alonso into his debut upon his arrival, it would not be a surprise if Guardiola made the Champions League Benatia debut.
Regardless of the setup, the catalyst to Bayern's continuity will be Alonso. The Spaniard has already touched the ball 234 times, passing at a 91 percent success rate. He is the no. 6 Guardiola was searching for last season to replace the consistently injured Bastian Schweinsteiger, and his presence usurps the need for Philipp Lahm to his natural fullback position.
Where Guardiola will have a little more support is in attack. Franck Ribéry returned from knee troubles to score against VfB Stuttgart, a sign he might be ready for a full match if called upon. That adds two elite, experienced wingers to flank two versatile forwards in Thomas Müller and Robert Lewandowski. Even without Arjen Robben, who is likely to miss the match with knee troubles, Bayern's front will once again be forceful and decisive.
Bayern struggled a year ago when Manchester City came to town, but the Rekordmeister are currently at the juncture in their campaign where they start to find their footing.
Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1):
Mario Götze – Thomas Müller
David Alaba – Xabi Alonso – Sebastian Rode
Juan Bernat – Dante – Jérôme Boateng – Philipp Lahm
Bench: Tom Starke, Mehdi Benatia, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Gianluca Gaudino, Xherdan Shaqiri, Arjen Robben, Claudio Pizarro
Trying to defend their league title, Manchester City's Premier League campaign has start similarly to their last. There were results that made a consecutive title all but inevitable, and then others where the title appears harder than ever to achieve.
Regardless of their league form, the Citizens will be entering a Champions League experience that no one has ever had before. They enter the tournament after a restricted transfer window, and now the shackles extend to the squad. They will have four less registered players able to participate, although with how deep their squad is, that restriction probably will not extend too farm onto the field.
Part of the reason is because of the emergence of Stevan Jovetić. The Montenegrin as overcome an inconsistent, injury-plagued season to progress his adjustment to the English style. Manuel Pellegrini has awarded him the spot in behind the striker, and he has taken the promotion to the tune of two goals and eight shots in three matches. Along with David Silva and Samir Nasri, the line behind the striker – whether Edin Džeko or Sergio Agüero – is as fierce as it has been under the Abu Dhabi United Group.
Their weakness remains in defense, where Vincent Kompany has to cover a lot of defensive mistakes. Fernandinho has done well shielding the back line, but 33-year-old Martin Demichelis is less reliable with every passing year. To make matters worse, Pablo Zabaleta is suspended after his double yellow against Barcelona. Their defense is not designed to take many blows, and one could knock them straight on their butts.
Manchester City's European reputation increases with every statement victory, in this group is filled with opportunities for those.
Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1):
David Silva – Stevan Jovetić – Sami Nasri
Yaya Touré – Fernandinho
Gaël Clichy – Martín Demichelis – Vincent Kompany – Bacary Sagna
Bench: Willy Caballero, Dedryck Boyata, Aleksandar Kolarov, Frank Lampard, Jesús Navas, James Milner, Sergio Agüero
Manchester City have showed they do not mind keeping the ball, although they do take the game to their opponents. Bayern has yet to develop a menacing build-up play, but their match against Stuttgart showed that the y could sprout into a menacing attack any time. This will be a war of attrition, which plays right into Guardiola's wheelhouse.