Tomorrow night, Manchester City resume their quest to conquer Europe for the first time ever at the Estádio José Alvalade in Portugal. Their opponents? Sporting CP, second in the Portuguese league and six points behind FC Porto. They come into tomorrow’s game on the back of a 2-2 draw with Porto on Friday.
Under the lights in Portugal, City know that they don’t have an easy task. The UCL is no respecter of domestic form and this game is a different dynamic.
Sporting could be without the man who had the unenviable task of replacing former star player Bruno Fernandes. The club could be without Pedro ‘Pote’ Goncalves after he sat out Friday night’s top of the table clash with Porto due to a muscle injury. Joao Palhinha could start after failing to start last Friday’s game, finding a place on the bench.
Man City are without Kyle Walker due to suspension for a red card in the dead rubber match against Leipzig. Gabriel Jesus and Cole Palmer are both nearing returns but the game could come too soon for them. Jack Grealish faces up to a month out due to a recurrence of an injury that affected him at Aston Villa.
WHAT TO EXPECT
For Sporting the best way to come away with a positive result against the Cityzens is to have a solid defensive base and convert chances when they come. They won’t be cowered into fear of the big names but would need to play to their strengths in this first leg tie.
Ruben Amorim has transformed the side into a team that has no fear of the big sides. On paper, they should be losing this tie but decisiveness on the counter and in set-piece situations could give them a positive result.
Last season’s finalists are among the favorites for this year’s title and have the burden on their shoulders. City’s big stars have dominated in the Premier League but would need to replicate that same form on the European scene. Pep Guardiola’s drought continued last year and he would love to win his first European trophy since he left Barcelona.
The tie is one of a David vs Goliath, with City clearly boasting the better side with a better chance. It won’t be a walk in a park though and they can expect quite a resistance from the Portuguese champions.
PREDICTED STARTING XIs
Sporting CP: Adan; Inacio, Coates, Feddal; Porro, Nunes, Palhinha, Reis; Sarabia, Paulinho, Goncalves.
Manchester City: Ederson, Cancelo, Dias, Laporte, Zinchenko, Rodri, Bernardo, De Bruyne, Sterling, Foden, Mahrez.
Sporting CP 1-2 Manchester City