Manchester City v Borussia Dortmund
Tuesday 06 April, 20:00
Live on BT Sport
Relentless City insured against failure
This is the stage of the Champions League where Manchester City have struggled in recent seasons, and last term's exit to Lyon was a classic example of coach Pep Guardiola diverging from what he would normally do in domestic play. His players looked ill at ease against the French side in Lisbon, and yet another bid for European football's top prize ended prematurely, much to the evident frustration of stars like Kevin de Bruyne.
And yet there is something different about this Manchester City side. While they may well have their hands full if they face UCL holders Bayern Munich in the semi-finals, they look less likely to falter against opposition they are expected to beat, because the defensive side of their game has been rock-solid. With just 21 goals conceded in 31 games, City have by far the best defensive record in the Premier League, a strength that has helped them speed towards regaining their domestic crown.
But it's not just how few goals they are conceding that's impressive, it's how they are giving teams so few quality chances. If you look at their last 20 games in the Premier League, the opposition have been held to an Infogol Expected Goals figure of below 1.0 on 16 occasions, and a figure of below 0.5 in 10 of those games. These are startling figures.
City's injuries problems have cleared up at the right time, and they have no fresh concerns.
Frankfurt failure showed cracks in Dortmund's facade
Borussia Dortmund's nightmare scenario was played out at Signal Iduna Park on Saturday, as a late goal from the impeccable Portuguese striker Andre Silva saw them lose 2-1 at home to Eintracht Frankfurt, their direct rivals for a Champions League spot. BVB are now seven points adrift of Eintracht in the race for fourth, and although the club is insisting privately and publicly that failure to reach the UCL next season wouldn't force them to sell star striker Erling Haaland in the summer, there would be significant financial damage in times that are already challenging.
Dortmund have plenty of challenges to deal with on the pitch as well as off it. They were disjointed and sloppy against Frankfurt, and suffered their tenth league defeat of the season. Without fans, Signal Iduna Park is no longer a fortress, and no-one has any fear of the famed Yellow Wall when it's empty. An injury to Jadon Sancho has robbed the Dortmund attack of some sparkle, and skipper Marco Reus has contributed just three league goals in 25 appearances. In the dugout, BVB fan and coach Edin Terzic is doing his best, but the former assistant lacks experience as the main man.
That's not to say there haven't been some highlights. The ousting of Sevilla in the last 16 of the Champions League caught the eye, and Dortmund blew away RB Leipzig 3-1 earlier this year. They may well face the Red Bulls once again in the final of the DFB Cup, and if Terzic could secure a first major trophy since 2017 for his beloved club, then he would at least hand over to his incoming replacement Marco Rose with a spring in his step.
Sancho looks unlikely to face his former club at the Etihad, while defender Dan-Axel Zagadou is also struggling. After a disastrous performance against Frankfurt that featured an absurd own goal, left-back Nico Schulz could be benched, with Raphael Guerreiro moving from midfield to replace him. Midfield enforcer Axel Witsel is still on the sidelines.
City can outclass Dortmund
Manchester City dismissed Borussia Mönchengladbach with a minimum of fuss in the previous round, and even though Dortmund are a better side than the Foals, there is still a quality gap here. Erling Haaland is a danger to any side, but if City control the match and keep the ball away from the Norwegian, his effectiveness will be vastly reduced.
City have won 26 of their last 27 competitive games, and 21 of those wins were by two goals or more. I'll back the hosts to beat demoralised opposition by at least a couple of goals by backing Manchester City -1.5 on the Asian Handicap at 2.01/1.
There is another way to play this, because you could back City to win and Under 3.5 Goals on the Sportsbook's Same Game Multi at 2.13. That has paid out in 16 of City's last 27 matches.
Gundogan to shine against his former club?
Ilkay Gundogan was an excellent performer at Borussia Dortmund, and they were sad to lose him, with his departure an extremely sore point for coach Thomas Tuchel at the time. Since the German international has arrived at City, he has taken his game up a level, and he has been one of the Premier League's top performers this term. When you consider that he's had to battle back from serious injury, and that he's a very nice chap, it's hard to begrudge him that success.
Gundogan has found the net in five of his last six games for club and country, and I'll happily back him to score here at 3.211/5.