Skip to content

UEFA Champions League Wednesday Preview: Bayern visit Manchester City; bad timing for Moyes’ latest United test

Oct 2, 2013, 5:23 AM EDT

Thomas Mueller

UEFA Champions League’s group stage continues on Wednesday, Groups A through D completing the competition’s second round of action. With special focus in Manchester, Donetsk, and Turin, here’s a preview of the week’s final eight matches:

GUARDIOLA’S COLD NIGHT IN MANCHESTER
Manchester City (3 pts., England) vs. Bayern Munich (3 pts., Germany)
Kickoff: 2:45 p.m. Eastern, Manchester (Etihad Stadium), England

Before the Messi-versus-Ronaldo debate died, old-timey British punditry developed an imaginative way to back their guy (Cristiano Ronaldo). I’d like to see him do it on a rainy night in Stoke is what became of then-Sky Sports commentator Andy Gray’s 2011 assertion Lionel Messi would “struggle in a cold night at the Britannia Stadium.” Given Gray would later claim women “don’t know the offside rule,” the former Scotland international’s Messi critique proved to be one of his more prescient, if still terribly misguided.

But while the observation was about a player, it was also an implicit critique of the approach instilled by then-coach Pep Guardiola. For much of the world, Barcelona’s combination of style, technique, movement and vision helped correct the course of a game that’d become more power than skill. For a small sliver of English fandom (represented by Gray), Messi and his cohorts thrived because the continent were unwilling to get physical and take the game to them. They were unwilling to be Stoke.

Two years later, we have a test of sorts, albeit with important differences on each side. Wednesday’s marque match will take place an hour north of Stoke-on-Trent, with Manuel Pellegrini taking his home Champions League bow for Manchester City. On a night that’s supposed to draw showers, the Sky Blues will welcome one of Pellegrini’s former rivals: Guardiola, the new manager of Bayern Munich.

source: Getty Images

Manuel Pellegrini faced Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona during tenures at Villarreal, Real Madrid, and Málaga. On Wednesday, he will be looking for his first victory over his former Clasico rival. (Photo: Getty Images.)

That’s where the similarities end, though there are facets of City’s team that will offer the physical challenge Stoke Truthers sought. Yaya Touré not only presents a persistent threat to any midfielder who hopes to retain the ball but can also leverage the experience of playing for three years at Barcelona. Vincent Kompany, one of the few rearguards with a claim to being the world’s best defender, won’t hesitate to stand his ground against the in-cutting Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry, while the general style of a team used to playing in whistle-swallowing England could show down Bayern.

The extent to which Pellegrini leverages those qualities is the question. While facing Guardiola teams with Villarreal, Real Madrid, and Málaga, Pellegrini typically stuck to variants of the preferred 4-4-2 (4-2-2-2) base he’s instilled at Manchester City (never finding a way to beat Guardiola). While one variant could include a 4-4-1-1 that would see a withdrawn striker tasked with coming back to mark Philipp Lahm in defensive midfield (how strange is it to read that?), Pellegrini’s unlikely to pack his formation with a true five-man midfield.

One other small detail bares mentioning: Bayern Munich aren’t Barcelona. Barça don’t have a forward with the tenacity of Mario Mandzukic. They don’t have an attacker with the versatility of Thomas Müller. Though they now have Neymar, they didn’t have the wide play of a Robben or Ribery when Guardiola was in charge. And if he players, Bastian Schweisteiger will provide a midfield option distinct from anything the Blaugrana utilized under Guardiola.

Not that any of that would matter. Pellegrini never meaningfully changed his approach while facing Guardiola in Spain, and he’s highly unlikely to make major changes on Wednesday. Instead of a Chelsea-esque bunker or a team of central defender archetypes Tony Pulis‘s Stoke would have throw at the problem, we’re more likely to see two teams that reflect their manager’s core beliefs. Guardiola’s adapted his to Bayern’s personnel, his 4-1-4-1 threatening like a 4-3-3, while Pellegrini already has his City team employing his very recognizable approach.

“It’s always a game between the players”: Those were Pellegrini’s words at Tuesday’s press conference, speaking about another meeting between him and his former Clasico rival. But if the players truly are the key, Pellegrini will be happy to get David Silva and Sergio Agüero back from injury. Both players are expected to be available Wednesday. For Bayern, neither Mario Götze nor Bastian Schweinsteiger are 100 percent, but coming back from prolonged absences, both should be available for selection.

[MORE: UEFA Champions League Roundup: Atlético, Arsenal shine; Chelsea rebound.]

[MORE: Where They Stand: Groups E through H after two rounds of Champions League.]

UNFAIR EXPECTATIONS FOR MOYES, MANCHESTER UNITED
Shakhtar Donetsk (3 pts., Ukraine) vs. Manchester United (3 pts., England)
Kickoff: 2:45 p.m. Eastern, Donetsk (Donbass Arena), Ukraine

David Moyes had been Mr. Most-Likely long before Alex Ferguson made way in May. For years, the former Everton boss was thought to be the Manchester United legend’s likely successor.

Imagine what that must have been like, from his point of view: the frustrating of hearing you’re likely next-in-line; the temptation to look toward one of the world’s most-prostigious jobs; the irritation of never knowing for sure. Years go buy, you’re fighting the good fight at Goodison Park, but you can’t help but wonder when Ferguson will bow out. And when he does, are you really the man United wants?

source: Reuters

David Moyes opened his Champions League career with a 4-2 win over Bayer Leverkusen, but with Manchester United having fallen to 12th in the Premier League, the new Red Devils boss will face increased scrutiny if his team disappoints in Donetsk. (Photo: Reuters.)

Everton is one of the best jobs in English football, but compared to Manchester United, it’s the single-family home you buy while planning for your dream house. And every day, when you drive by those bigger, nicer houses you wish were yours, you have to go home to the perfectly adequate place you know you’ll eventually leave.

But now that Moyes has moved into his dream house, he’s discovering it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. His dreams didn’t include squeaking floors, leaky roofs, or the constant reminders from neighbors about how nice the place looked under the former owner.

Right now, Moyes doesn’t know how to fix the problems, and unfortunately for him, Wednesday’s game is unlikely to help. Under the best of circumstances, Manchester United would be stressed to get three points out of the Donbass Arena, but coming off a loss to West Brom that illuminated their continued vulnerability, even a sputtering Shakhtar Donetsk will be favored.

Unfortunately, because the Ukrainian champions don’t carry the name recognition of Europe’s elites, many fans won’t be forgiving if United can’t claim full points in Donetsk. So if United lose, regardless of the quality of their effort, the result will be tossed on the same pile as their Liverpool, Manchester City, and West Brom losses.

And if United happened to spring an upset? The accomplishment could be overlooked. We’re still not at the point where Shakhtar Donetsk’s talents are fully respected.

For Moyes, this type of match couldn’t come at a worse time. Recoiling from derby losses and an upset at home, this is not the time for a no-win scenario.

Although a victory would certainly quell some doubts snowballing after this weekend’s loss, it’s unlikely to alleviate much scrutiny.

[MORE: UEFA Champions League Tuesday, full-time snapshot.]

[MORE: Atlético Madrid conquer Dragão, take 2-1 win from Porto.]

FAMILIAR FACE RETURNS TO TURIN
Juventus (1 pt., Italy) vs. Galatasaray (0 pts., Turkey)
Kickoff: 2:45 p.m. Eastern, Turin (Juventus Stadium), Italy

Roberto Mancini, who claims Juventus as his boyhood club, may have been the biggest single beneficiary from the punishment of Calciopoli. The 2006 match-fixing scandal that five Italian clubs punished, Juventus stripped of two titles, and Inter Milan awarded Juve’s 2005-06 scudetto. As Juventus fought back from their forced relegation to Serie B, Mancini’s Inter claimed two more titles, the coach’s reputation built on the three scudetti he won before being replaced by José Mourinho.

source:

After being fired by Manchester City in May, Roberto Mancini has landed another job. The three-time Serie A winner debuts with Galatasaray on Wednesday.

Now, for the fist time since leaving Internazionale, Mancini’s back in Turin, recently named Fatih Terim’s successor at Galatasaray. For many, he remains a symbol of Juve’s hardship, this teams’ success coming at a time when the Old Lady was at its weakest.

On Wednesday, Galatasaray will be in a position of weakness, particularly relative to a team that’s yet to lose a competitive match this season. Gala lost their Champions League opener 6-1 to Real Madrid and have won only one of their five Super Lïg games. Despite a squad that’s retained the likes of Didier Drogba, Burak Yilmaz, and Wesley Sneijder (doubtful for Wednesday’s match), Gala have been unable to recapture the form that claimed last year’s Turkish title and a spot in Champions League’s quarterfinals.

Getting a result on Wednesday may be asking too much. In the short-term, mere improvement will be considering progress. Long-term, however, Mancini will be expected to get Gala back in title contention. Improving on their Real Madrid performance will be the first step.

[MORE: Dominance then control see Arsenal cruise past Napoli.]

[MORE: Mesut Özil signing keeps getting sweeter for Arsenal.]

Others
All matches kickoff at 2:45 p.m. Eastern with the exception of CSKA-Viktoria, which starts at noon.

  • CSKA Moscow (0 pts., Russia) vs. Viktoria Plzen (0 pts., Czech Republic), Petrovski Stadium, St. Petersburg – Poor field conditions in Moscow forcee this game to St. Petersburg, where CSKA will play at the home of Premier League leaders Zenit. His team having lost three of four, head coach Leonid Slutski called on playmaker Keisuke Honda to show more leadership while helping CSKA navigate their slump. Plzen coach Pavel Vrba identified the Japanese international when discussing the Russians’ key players.
  • Bayer Leverkusen (0 pts., Germany) vs. Real Sociedad (0 pts., Spain), BayArena, Leverkusen – Bayer disappointed in round one, losing by two at Old Trafford, yet their Bundesliga form (off to their best start in 30 years) hints they will contend to get out of this group. With Shakhtar having already claimed three points in Spain, Bayer need to defeat Real Sociedad lest they lose ground on the Ukrainian champions. La Real will be without captain Xabi Prieto and midfielder Esteban Granero as they attempt to slow down Stefan Kießling, Sidney Sam, and Son Heung-Min.
  • Real Madrid (3 pts., Spain) vs. FC Copenhagen (1 pt., Denmark), Santiago Bernabéu, Madrid – Coming off their Derbi loss to Atlético, Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti has identified Wednesday’s came as crucial to changing the club’s “attitude and spirit.” They will be without Gareth Bale (hamstring), Xabi Alonso (foot), and Marcelo (thigh). Copenhagen reach the Bernabéu emboldened by a round one draw with Juventus while still lodged in Denmark’s relegation zone. They may be without defender Olof Melberg, who left this weekend’s loss to Brondby with a concussion.
  • Paris Saint-Germain (3 pts., France) vs. Benfica (3 pts., Portugal), Parc de Princes, France – Benfica have been struggling in Portugal’s Liga but are still likely to present a stiffer challenge for PSG than Olympiacos did in round one. At the same time, PSG were outplayed for 45 minutes in Greece before exploding in the second half, finishing with four goals. As he’s sought to do all season, PSG head coach Laurent Blanc will set up with hope of controlling possession. The approach could limit the exposure of a defense that will be missing Thiago Silva and Alex.
  • Anderlecht (0 pts., Belgium) vs. Olympiacos (0 pts., Greece), Constant Vanden Stock Stadium, Brussels – With both teams coming off round one losses, this match will the “vital for setting the tone for the rest of [their] European campaigns,” according to Anderlecht boss John van den Brom. The Belgians hope a patient, possession-based approach will help control Olympiacos’s counter attackers, while the visitors will be wary of starting a second-straight group stage with consecutive losses.

Latest Posts
  1. Premier League Deadline Day podcast

    Sep 2, 2015, 9:57 PM EDT

    DeGea Getty Images

    The NBC Deadline Day show is here in podcast form.

  2. Martial transfer fee from Manchester United trickles down to French lower tier team

    Sep 2, 2015, 9:32 PM EDT

    Martial Getty Images

    A fraction of the transfer fee has made its way to the lower division team in France that helped mold Anthony Martial into the $55 million player he is today.

  3. Men In Blazers Podcast: Deadline Day recap and Chelsea loses again

    Sep 2, 2015, 8:18 PM EDT

    meninblazers

    Rog and Davo break down Chelsea’s loss to Crystal Palace and Swansea’s stylish win over Manchester United. Plus, a recap of transfer deadline day.

  4. Klinsmann confirms Brad Guzan will start Confederations Cup playoff in goal

    Sep 2, 2015, 6:56 PM EDT

    Guzan Getty Images

    Tim Howard looked good for Everton last weekend, but the U.S. coach says it’s too close to the Mexico game to make a change.

  5. Ashley Cole is quickly being phased out at Roma

    Sep 2, 2015, 5:42 PM EDT

    Cole Getty Images

    The former Chelsea defender is no longer listed on the team’s website and was left out of both the club’s domestic and European squads.

  6. Dortmund’s Kevin Grosskreutz will move to Galatasaray immediately despite transfer mishap

    Sep 2, 2015, 4:29 PM EDT

    Grosskreutz Getty Images

    The paperwork was late, and FIFA rejected the deal, but the two sides still wish for it to be completed.

  7. Zlatan Ibrahimovic confirms he turned down AC Milan this summer

    Sep 2, 2015, 3:40 PM EDT

    Zlatan Getty Images

    The San Siro wanted Zlatan back, but he is happy in France.

  8. Ex-Manchester United striker Berbatov spurned Aston Villa for Greek club

    Sep 2, 2015, 2:46 PM EDT

    Berbatov Getty Images

    Villa had a very quiet Deadline Day, but they tried to make a splash.

  9. Mark Noble wins red card appeal; West Ham still charged for reaction

    Sep 2, 2015, 2:07 PM EDT

    LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 29: Mark Noble of West Ham United at Chadwell Heath on June 29, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by James Griffiths/West Ham United via Getty Images) Getty Images

    After the match, Noble said it was a tackle that happens “10 times a game” and that he felt it didn’t even deserve a yellow card.

  10. U.S. U-23 versus England U-21 preview: Young Yanks face Premier League cast at Deepdale

    Sep 2, 2015, 1:15 PM EDT

    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 14:  Cameron Carter-Vickers of Tottenham Hotspur U21 holds off Manu Garcia of Manchester City U21 during the Barclays U21 Premier League match between Manchester City U21 and Tottenham Hotspur U21 at The Academy Stadium on August 14, 2015 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images) Getty Images

    After finishing second in its group thanks to a 3-1 win over the Netherlands, Herzog’s Yanks toppled England’s U-20 team this summer. Now: the U-21s.

  11. Spain’s Del Bosque says De Gea’s Euro spot in trouble without playing time; Speaks on Chelsea’s Costa

    Sep 2, 2015, 12:31 PM EDT

    Manchester United's goalkeeper David De Gea of Spain arrives at Soccer City training facility for a Spanish soccer team concentration meeting in Las Rozas, near Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2015. The day after De Gea's multi-million euro move to the Spanish capital was called off, Madrid pointed the finger at United, issuing a lengthy 10-point statement claiming officials at Old Trafford held the deal up with their delays, but United hit back at their old rivals by publishing a counter-statement on Tuesday evening. (AP Photo) AP

    “He needs to be professional and move on from this episode,” Del Bosque said of the Manchester United keeper.

  12. Arsenal’s Ozil says he’d play in Olympics; Joachim Low doubts it very much

    Sep 2, 2015, 11:29 AM EDT

    FBL-WC-2014-MATCH45-USA-GER Getty Images

    Unified Germany hasn’t medaled since 1964 in Tokyo (Bronze). East Germany won gold in 1976.

  13. No Arsenal big Deadline buy? Wenger says price for Martial “sums it up all the way”

    Sep 2, 2015, 11:12 AM EDT

    LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 09:  Arsene Wenger, Manager of Arsenal reacts on the touchline during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and West Ham United at the Emirates Stadium on August 9, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images) Getty Images

    “The Financial Fair Play today is too complicated to be efficient,” said the Premier League’s longest-tenured manager. “There’s a need to simplify the process.”

  14. European qualifiers preview: Netherlands, Spain, Germany in unusual positions (full schedule)

    Sep 2, 2015, 10:38 AM EDT

    (L-R) Arjen Robben of Holland, Birkir Bjarnason of Iceland during the EURO 2016 qualifying match between Iceland and Netherlands on October 13, 2014 at the Laugardalsvollur National Stadium at Reykjavik, Iceland.(Photo by VI Images via Getty Images) Getty Images

    Some of Europe’s biggest sides find themselves in tricky positions ahead of the final four group stage matches of qualification.

  15. $10 million Gradel set for six-month Bournemouth absence after ligament tear

    Sep 2, 2015, 9:24 AM EDT

    Bournemouth's Max Gradel battles for the ball with Aston Villa's Micah Richards, right,  during their English Premier League match at the Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth, England  Saturday Aug. 8, 2015. (John Walton/PA via AP)  UNITED KINGDOM OUT  NO SALES NO ARCHIVE AP

    Bournemouth took a big hit on transfer deadine day, but it had nothing to do with sales or purchases.

  16. Transfer window by the numbers: The Premier League breaks its records

    Sep 2, 2015, 8:47 AM EDT

    watfordfc.com watfordfc.com

    Let’s dig into the figures, at least in terms of the 20 Premier League clubs, including the controversial amount of players on loan from Chelsea.

  17. U.S., Swiss attorney generals to give joint press conference on FIFA investigation

    Sep 2, 2015, 8:16 AM EDT

    U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch listens to East Haven Police Chief Brent Larrabee, left, speak during a community policing tour, Tuesday, July 21, 2015, in East Haven, Conn. Lynch is in Connecticut to highlight improvements in relations between police and Latinos since four officers were arrested in 2012 on abuse charges. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill) AP

    We’re just a few weeks away from further information on the strength of the cases against Sepp Blatter’s FIFA.

  18. VIDEO: Could Manchester United and Real Madrid benefit from the De Gea deal collapsing?

    Sep 1, 2015, 10:08 PM EDT

    FBL-ENG-PR-MAN UTD-ARSENAL Getty Images

    If both sides really wanted to make this transfer happen, they could have. Is it possible neither team wanted the deal to get done?

  19. VIDEO: Manchester City has spent more than $500 million under Manuel Pellegrini

    Sep 1, 2015, 9:37 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptnjmtjlmtrmyznjyjzkyziwmwm1owmzndhiogfmnmiz AP

    Based on the Citizens’ form to start the season, it looks like money well spent.

  20. Arsenal Supporters’ Trust issues statement calling for review of club’s transfer policies

    Sep 1, 2015, 9:08 PM EDT

    Arsenal v Liverpool - Premier League Getty Images

    After spending just $20 million this summer on a goalkeeper and a teenager, Arsenal fans want to know what’s going on in the boardroom.

Featured video

PST Extra: Analyzing transfer deadline day