Manchester City fell at the final hurdle in the Champions League last term, but Kevin Hatchard thinks they'll have no such problems in the group stage against RB Leipzig.
"Leipzig were shredded by Bayern at the weekend, while City are once again racking up the clean sheets."
Manchester City v RB Leipzig
Wednesday 15 September, 20:00
Live on BT Sport
City resume quest for holy grail
The Champions League has been a book of pain for Manchester City, and their final defeat to Chelsea in Porto earlier this year was the cruellest chapter of all. Once again, Pep Guardiola diverged from Plan A, failing to select Rodri or Fernandinho in the final, and suffering the consequences in a 1-0 defeat.
Whatever your view of Guardiola, the facts are undeniable. The Catalan coach failed to take Bayern Munich beyond the UCL semis in three seasons, and he hasn't won European football's premier competition for a decade.
Despite losing their Premier League opener at Tottenham, City have made a solid start to their title defence. They crushed Norwich and Arsenal 5-0, and ground out a 1-0 win at Leicester City at the weekend. The champions leaked just 32 goals in the top flight last term, and they have conceded just one in four games this term. If you look at Infogol's Expected Goals figures, they have a xGF figure of 12.2, and an xGA number of just 2.4, giving them by far the biggest differential in the league so far.
Of course, such data only gets you so far, but the sight test backs up the numbers. Jack Grealish has settled in quickly after his £100m move from Aston Villa, Gabriel Jesus is thriving as a converted winger, and Ferran Torres has looked lively through the centre. In defence, the absence of John Stones hasn't presented a problem so far.
City have no fresh injury concerns, and Guardiola has plenty of options.
False start gives Marsch plenty to ponder
Barely a month into the new Bundesliga season, RB Leipzig's title hopes hang by a thread. Under new coach Jesse Marsch, the Red Bulls have made their worst ever start to a Bundesliga season, losing three of their first four games. On Saturday, they were methodically dismantled by Bayern, and although the 4-1 scoreline was a touch harsh, the defeat was not. The clumsy concession of an early penalty, as Kevin Kampl needlessly handled in the box, set the tone for a disappointing display.
Leipzig are struggling to supply new star striker Andre Silva with adequate service, and although they put four goals past Stuttgart without reply, they have scored just once across their other three Bundesliga games. Dani Olmo, Christopher Nkunku and Dominik Szoboszlai all have talent and technique, but they must step up a gear. In defence, new recruit Mohamed Simakan has done well, but the loss of Dayot Upamecano to Bayern and Ibrahima Konate to Liverpool has left a significant void to fill.
Marsch knows he has to find solutions, and find them quickly. His admission that his new side might not yet be ready to face elite opposition like Bayern and Manchester City hasn't been well received in the media, and a failure to qualify for next season's Champions League would be disastrous.
Marsch must make a big decision at left-back. Angelino is keen to play against his old club City (he feels Guardiola never gave him the chance to shine), but he had a poor game against Bayern, and Croatian youngster Josko Gvardiol is pushing hard for a start. Marcel Halstenberg is still injured, so Willi Orban is expected to partner Simakan at centre-back.
City can win with room to spare
Leipzig haven't even scored away from home yet, and this game feels like it's coming too early in Jesse Marsch's reign. There are issues in defence, midfield and attack, and even their usually-reliable goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi looks a bit off-colour. Leipzig will get their act together eventually, but it won't be here against a City side that is scoring goals and keeping clean sheets.
I'll back the hosts -1.5 on the Asian Handicap at 1.9110/11.
Red Bulls to run out of steam?
Given that Leipzig have lost 1-0 at Mainz and 1-0 at Wolfsburg, and that City have already racked up three clean sheets in four league games, there's an argument to say that you should back the hosts to win to nil at 2.1411/10. Alternatively you could back No in the Both Teams To Score market at 1.9310/11.
Mahrez can make his mark
Riyad Mahrez was rested for the trip to his old side Leicester, which suggest to me that he will start on the right-hand side of the City attack. I think the Algerian can cause his old team-mate Angelino all kinds of problems. Keep an eye on the team news, and if Mahrez starts, back him to have two or more shots on target at 3.412/5 on the Sportsbook.
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