Manchester City begin their quest for a maiden Champions League title with a tricky trip to Dutch champions Feyenoord on Wednesday night. Mark O'Haire previews the encounter.
"Eight of the Citizens’ past nine victories have arrived in matches featuring Over 2.5 Goals, as well as 15 of their all-time 18 wins in Champions League history."
Feyenoord v Manchester City
Wednesday 13th September, 19:45
Live on BT Sport
Feyenoord back at Europe's top table
Feyenoord ended 18 years of hurt by finally lifting the Eredivisie title last term but the top dogs in Holland have seen key defenders Terence Kongolo and Rick Karsdorp depart, whilst winger Eljero Elia has also left the club and influential captain Dirk Kuyt has retired.
Domestic rivals Ajax and PSV have already been knocked out of continental competition this season and the Rotterdammers will do well to avoid the same fate having been pitted in a tough looking Group F. And it's worth remembering, Feyenoord failed to progress from their Europa League pool in 2016/17.
Manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst is hoping new additions Kevin Dijs, Ridgeciano Haps, Jean-Paul Boetius and Sam Larsson can hit the ground running but the absence of leading striker Nicolai Jorgensen means Michiel Kramer will start in the centre of the hosts' 4-3-3 formation here.
Manchester City hell-bent on European glory
For the first time in Pep Guardiola's career the much heralded head coach failed to guide his team into the Champions League semi-finals. The 6-6 away goals defeat to Monaco in the Last 16 prompted a summer spending spree to tighten the defence as the Citizens hunt European glory.
Having twice broken the world record transfer fee for defenders, City are expected to put up more resistance at the back and their Expected Goals (xG) against column after four Premier League games is a divisional best 2.00. But it's their overwhelming attacking artillery that remains their most lethal weapon.
Flexibility is key for City and over their first four Premier League fixtures, the visitors have switched between 3-5-2 and a 4-3-3 system. With Ederson out, Claudio Bravo will be between the sticks. Meanwhile, Vincent Kompany remains unavailable but Raheem Sterling comes back into contention.
Feyenoord [8.80] have only claimed two wins in their past 15 Champions League outings (W2-D6-L7) but are making their first appearance at this level since 2002/03. Even so, the hosts overcame Manchester United at De Kuip on Europa League duty last term and have W22-D2-L1 here since 2016/17.
The Rotterdammers have started the defence of their title with four victories from four, notching 12 goals to catapult van Bronckhorst's troops back to the top of the table at this early stage.
Manchester City [1.43] have failed to record a victory in their last six away days at Europe's top table (W0-D3-L3), conceding 14 goals in the process. But the Citizens played a second-string against Celtic and the remaining five fixtures came against Monaco, Gladbach, Barcelona, Real Madrid and PSG.
Following their 5-0 shellacking of Liverpool on Saturday, City are expected to start their campaign with a victory. However, the odds on offer in the main Match Odds market are too skinny to entertain with the away side managing only nine successes in their past 26 trips to Europe.
None of Manchester City's 36 Champions League group games have ended goalless and the guests have recorded a paltry five clean sheets across those 36 encounters. Considering Feyenoord have scored in all bar one of their past 33 home outings since January 2016, the hosts should be capable of grabbing a goal.
Obviously, Jorgensen's absence is a blow for the Dutch outfit but they did notch 56 home goals in the Eredivisie last season and in Boetius and Steven Burghuis they boast two wide players capable of causing City problems at the back.
Saying that, Feyenoord are likely to come unstuck due to their own defensive failings. Centre-halves Eric Bottteghin and Jan-Arie Van der Heijden aren't particularly mobile and could be left exposed if attacking full-backs Diks and Haps decide to venture too far forward.
The 9/5 available on Betfair Sportsbook for City to win alongside Both Teams To Score should appeal but it may pay to play a safer bat and back a Manchester City triumph with Over 2.5 Goals at 10/11, knowing Feyenoord are without their most potent striker.
Eight of the Citizens' past nine victories have arrived in matches featuring Over 2.5 Goals, as well as 15 of their all-time 18 wins in Champions League history.
Back Manchester City to win and Over 2.5 Goals @ [10/11]