As Manchester City players and staff touched down in Munich yesterday senior club delegates led by Bernard Halford are today preparing to lay a wreath at the memorial of the Munich air disaster of 1958 that took away 23 innocent lives. It is a strong message from a club determined to eradicate the vile songs that, fortunately, only a small minority of City fans remain to sing, and a sign of respect to mark a disaster that rocked the world of football. Whilst the poignancies of the past may be reflected on, Manchester City have not come to Munich for a day out. Rather, they face arguably their toughest challenge yet under Roberto Mancini as they prepare to be hosted by Bayern Munich in the second group game of their debut Champions League campaign, a game which sees Jerome Boateng and Daniel Van Buyten face their former club.
On paper Bayern are favourites, having made an impressive start in the Bundesliga Munich are currently top having won six of their opening seven fixtures. They have scored 26 goals conceding just one and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, once a reported target of City’s arch rivals Manchester United, has not conceded a goal in 838 minutes. Despite the odds, Mancini is confident that his side can win in Munich and is challenging his side to become big players in the European competition.
“We are not a small team any more. We are a good team and we can play against Munich without a problem. We’re here to win if possible, but we know it will be difficult. We know that anything can happen.”
It is a statement of intent from Mancini but he knows however, that a draw at the Allianz Arena would still be a good result for a side that is only playing their second game in the Champions League compared to Bayern’s 151. Drawing upon his experience with Inter Milan Mancini added, “When I managed Inter we lost the first two games, but still got to the second stage. It’s important that we remember that we have six games, I think we can get through with 10 points.”
With Nigel de Jong part of the travelling party but only expected to make the bench and Adam Johnson sidelined with an ankle injury, Mancini has a few teething problems ahead of the game especially with Mario Balotelli also unavailable as he continues to serve his suspension continuing from last season. Yet Mancini has the strength in depth to pick a side more than capable of getting a result against Munich, with last season’s top goalscorer Carlos Tévez available to slot in should Mancini want to reshape his side. With Samir Nasri expected to drop to the bench, James Milner is likely to get the nod to start in what could be a packed Manchester City midfield. Yaya Toure, Gareth Barry, David Silva and Sergio Aguero are all expected to start with Edin Dzeko up front as the lone striker. It is a formation that has worked for City so far this season and it seems unlikely that Mancini will change that against the toughest opponent the Blues have faced so far this season.
For Bayern, Jerome Boateng is expected to start with Daniel Van Buyten as Holger Badstuber is struggling with ‘flu. Ivica Olic and Breno are sidelined and Arjen Robben is expected to make the bench at the very least as he continues his comeback after a month out with a pelvic problem.
Manchester City’s likely line up: