Will City Be Singing In The Rain?
As football lessons go, they don’t come much more total than the one handed out to Manchester City by Bayern Munich at the Etihad Stadium early this month.
So soon after the Blues had themselves shown neighbours United how it should be done in a one-sided derby, City were quite simply taken apart by the European champions. A final scoreline of 3-1 hardly told the full story of the gulf in class that night.
This was a real jolt, not just to City, but to English football as a whole; Manuel Pellegrini’s men might be favourites for the Premier League, but that doesn’t mean they are a match for Europe’s best.
City will probably qualify from Group D as runners-up to Bayern, but they can’t afford a slip-up in the first game of a double-header against CSKA Moscow tomorrow evening.
And fortunately they could hardly be playing the Russian treble-winners at a better time. CSKA Moscow are not in good domestic form, a fourth defeat of the season to Zenit St Petersburg last weekend leaving them 11 points behind their big rivals in 6th place.
They have also become a bit dodgy at the back, shipping goals at an alarming rate, which is great news for the likes of Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo (both 9/2 with Coral to score first or last, 6/5 at any time) and Edin Dzeko (5/1 and 5/4).
The biggest worry for City might be the pitch. Moscow is still recovering from its wettest September for 130 years and it was so bad in the capital that CSKA had to decamp 400 miles to play their last Champions League fixture against Plzen (which they won unconvincingly and a shade fortunately).
The Army Men are now back at the Arena Khimki, but it’s still pretty soggy by all accounts and a heavy pitch won’t be ideal for anybody.
Even so, City’s superior class should win through in the end and Coral’s 8/11 is a price that makes some appeal. They made short work of Plzen in the second half in the Czech Republic and this away tie doesn’t appear to be much more difficult on paper, if at all, and it might turn out to be just as comfortable.
Another 3-0 away win (14/1) is not out of the question with Pellegrini sure to be taking the game very seriously and fielding a strong side – it would be extremely damaging for both the manager and the club if City messed up what seems straightforward qualification to the knock-out stages.