Can Guardiola’s finely tuned goal scoring machine conquer the next round of another competition? Or will German giants Schalke apply the brakes.
A tougher test than it may look
City are flying, just one defeat in their last 13 matches in all competitions. They have scored a ridiculous amount of goals this season, well over 100 now in all competitions. They’re in The Carabao Cup final, have progressed in the FA Cup and are joint top of The Premier League, but it’s The Champions League that the fans and players really dream of winning. The players are at the top of their game, and a quick glance at Schalke’s season will only serve to further their confidence, however Guardiola will have made it known that this is by no means an easy tie.
The Royal Blue’s were unbeaten at home in the group stages of the competition, including two wins against Lokomotiv Moscow and Galatasaray as well as a draw with group winners: Porto. Despite their poor domestic campaign, the German outfit have stepped it up in Europe, and nobody would jump at the chance to visit the Veltins Arena. It’s a cauldron of passion and atmosphere, City players will be just a hair away from 62,000 of the Schalke faithful who will be in full voice. Of Schalke’s six league wins this season, four of them have come on home soil. The hosts will be fully aware that any chance they have of getting through relies on taking something from this first leg.
No game in Europe is easy, particularly at this stage, just look at some of the results from The Europa League last week and that tells you all you need to know. These fixtures are a different entity, just take a look at Villareal winning at Sporting Lisbon, despite being third bottom of La Liga. If you fancy the German side to cause an upset, they’re the underdogs priced all the way out at 11.0.
Goals look likely
City’s goal scoring stats this season are ludicrous, they have smashed home 74 goals in the league alone, between Sterling and Aguero alone they have scored more goals than the whole Schalke team has domestically this campaign. The hosts have leaked goals this season, conceding 32 in their 22 Bundesliga games. However the group stages of the UCL were again a different story, where they kept three clean sheets, two of which came in their home victories. This is stark contrast to their league form, where they have kept a clean sheet in just 18% of their games, and have managed a win and clean sheet in just 9% of their games, only two sides in Germany’s top flight have a worse win to nil rate than Wednesday’s hosts.
There has been over 1.5 goals in 82% of Schalke’s games this season, with 50% of them featuring over 2.5 goals. For The Citizens, that stat is up at 92% and 65% respectively. With both teams keen to take an advantage in to the second leg, we may be in for an open contest, City don’t hold back and Schalke know that realistically they have to score in this game, or it could be over before they even touch down in Manchester. Over 2.5 goals is priced at 1.45.
Pep will have a plan
Guardiola is a perfectionist, he leaves no stone unturned and prepares his team to the highest standard regardless of their competition. Their FA Cup fixture was credit to that, they took it very seriously, Guardiola knew the dangers and played a strong side. Pep also knows German football, he’ll be aware of the threat Schalke pose, particularly at home. His experience and tactical knowhow should guide City through this first leg relatively comfortably, it’s hard to look past the contrasting fortunes for these two sides this season. City are the favourites for the win at 1.22.
Manchester City to win and both teams to score @ 2.63
Sergio Aguero to score first @ 3.75
Over 2.5 goals @ 1.45