Manchester City venture into Europe, will they get out the groups?
Plzen v Manchseter City Preview – Jon Freeman
Manuel Pellegrini has been hired principally to succeed where Roberto Mancini failed – to provide Manchester City with success in Europe – and the new boss will have no excuses if the Blues can’t at least progress from the Group Stage this time around.
Yes, champions Bayern Munich are alongside them in Group D, but so are relative lightweights Viktoria Plzen and CSKA Moscow and there are two qualifying places up for grabs.
First up is a visit to Czech champions Plzen tonight. Coral go 5/6 Man City, 7/2 Plzen, 13/5 the draw, but it will be a body blow to Pellegrini and his players if they fail to take all three points from one of the rank outsiders in the tournament.
Plzen have started the new season well – six wins and two draws from their opening eight games – and are clearly a useful side in their own league without having any pretensions to being in the same class as clubs like the 2012 Premiership title-holders.
They qualified for the Group stage of the Champions League for the first time two years ago and generally acquitted themselves well (in particular when grabbing two late goals to salvage a home draw with AC Milan), but they are unlikely to prove overly troublesome to either City or Bayern over the coming weeks.
City have underwhelmed under Pellegrini so far in the Premier League, but surely it is only a matter of time before their wonderful array of attacking talent gel and propel Coral’s 12/5 favourites up the table.
Their embarrassment of attacking riches include new boys Alvaro Negredo (4/1 to score first or last tonight) and Stevan Jovetic (6/1) and we can be fairly confident that if they don’t get Plzen, old boys Sergio Aguero (4/1) and Edin Dzeko (9/2) will.
It is in defence that City have looked less than assured at times, but that area should be improved no end by the return of Vincent Kompany, who could even feature tonight.
Plzen are a plucky side, who like to play on the front foot (they average almost three goals a game this season) and though their attacking opportunities may be limited on this occasion, they might well score at some stage in the game and make life interesting.
But City should win this and win it comfortably. 3-1 (14/1) makes some appeal.
Written by Jon Freeman