Manchester City host RB Leipzig in must-win clash
Manchester City host RB Leipzig in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie this evening with the aggregate score locked at 1-1, writes gulfnews.com.
Despite a four-game winning streak since the first leg, City must win at home to avoid being eliminated at this stage of the tournament for the first time since the 2016-17 season.
They will also be looking to equal Arsenal’s 14-year record for the longest Champions League unbeaten home run by an English team. Leipzig will be seeking to inflict City’s first home defeat of 2023 and continue their five-game unbeaten run in Europe’s elite competition. Leipzig warmed up for the game with a 3-0 victory over Borussia Monchengladbach in the Bundesliga on Saturday, while City beat Crystal Palace 1-0 in the Premier League.
Pep Guardiola will have a fully-fit squad for the second leg, with Kevin De Bruyne expected to force his way back into the starting lineup. Riyad Mahrez, who has scored in all three of his Champions League fixtures against Leipzig so far, can also expect to start.
Leipzig, on the other hand, will be without Christopher Nkunku, who has picked up a fresh hamstring problem since recovering from a long-term knee injury. He joins Xaver Schlager, Peter Gulacsi and Abdou Diallo on the sidelines.
Defences have not come out on top in the previous meetings between these two sides, with both teams scoring in all three matches. Despite the absence of Nkunku and injuries to other key players, Leipzig will be looking to cause an upset at the Etihad Stadium.
However, home advantage and City’s fully-fit squad could be enough to see them through to the quarter-finals. In the other game of the evening, Edin Dzeko looks favoured over Romelu Lukaku to start in attack for the Nerazzurri away to Porto.
According to Gazzetta dello Sport, via FCInterNews, the 36-year-old is the likelier of the two strikers to lead the line from the start alongside Lautaro Martinez.
Nerazzurri coach Simone Inzaghi has yet to really make his mind up on either of the pair either from the start or from the bench. In the first leg of the tie against Porto, Dzeko started and it was Lukaku who came off the bench and scored the match’s only goal.
Meanwhile, Porto coach, Sergio Conceicao, expects a balanced and difficult Champions League clash with Inter, believing their loss to Spezia won’t impact the European tie.
The Nerazzurri edged out a 1-0 win in the first leg thanks to a late goal from Lukaku, setting up a tense return match in Portugal. Inter essentially have no hope of catching Napoli in the title race, leaving the Champions League to be their main focus for the season.
Pressure is continuing to mount on coach Simone Inzaghi and many reports suggest that the result of this clash with Porto could be key for deciding his future at Inter.
Speaking in a press conference, Conceicao first touched on his expectations for Porto’s clash with Inter.
“It will be a balanced match, very difficult, against a team full of good players. We know our opponent but above all we know what we are capable of doing. We want to be intense, good at pressing, aggressive and, above all, intelligent.”
He commented on any differences from the first leg, where the Nerazzurri secured a 1-0 win.
“The matches may be similar, but they will never be the same. It will also depend on the players who will play for Inter, for example I think there are doubts about whether Skriniar will be there or not.
“I don’t know if Dumfries will play, if Gosens will be there…. Then up front they have Dzeko, Lukaku and Lautaro, only two of these will play. Then it will depend on the strategy we adopt.”
The Portuguese coach touched on Porto’s preparations for the decisive Champions League match.
“We prepared for it in accordance with what are our characteristics as a team. In these top-level matches we have to play the way we know, the way we feel most comfortable. If we adapt too much to our opponent, things might not go as well as we want.
“We are halfway through the game. We have 90 minutes to try to overturn the result but to do that we will have to be smart throughout the match. It will be important not to go on the attack, we will need to be patient and with the right aggressiveness.”
Conceicao was asked if his coaching style is suitable for the Champions League.
“I don’t think about that. My growth has to do with the challenges we have every day, with the quality of the players, with the changes in the squad year after year. I try not to look at what I like but to study a system that can extract the maximum potential from the players.
“This is what makes a coach grow. If you ask me which football I like best I’d answer German football, it doesn’t make me sleepy. Then I have a great passion for Italy, that’s where I lived the best moments of my career as a player and that’s why I have a strong bond with Italy.”