After successfully dismantling Bournemouth during the weekend, Manchester City return to Champions League action once again wherein they’ll face an extremely tricky opposition in the form of Unai Emery’s Sevilla.
The Spanish outfit are tough nuts to crack and are often regarded as one of the most stubborn oppositions to break down, mainly due to their resilience and a never-say-never attitude.
Currently sitting in a rather uncomfortable 11th spot in the La Liga table, Sevilla haven’t had a particularly pleasing start to their new campaign. However, their performances have improved recently and their 2-1 victory against Barcelona recently was a testament to that.
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On the other hand, Manchester City are top of the Premier League table but have not experienced an encouraging start to their Champions League odyssey and currently sit one spot below the Spanish outfit who are ahead of the Citizens on goal difference.
Although both the sides have never met each other in any competition before, Manuel Pellegrini and Jesus Navas will be well aware of the threat Emery’s side can pose to the Sky Blues’ chances of making it into the knockout stage of Europe’s showpiece tournament.
Like always, both the sides involved in the showdown at the Etihad Stadium have some superb individuals who can change the outcome of the game single-handedly. We therefore take a look at the three key battles which could have a significant impact on the result of this enticing fixture.
#1 Raheem Sterling vs Coke
After destroying Bournemouth’s defense during the weekend, there’s very little doubt in the fact that Raheem Sterling will come into this game brimming with confidence.
The performance which the England international put in against Eddie Howe’s men was his best since his big-money move from Liverpool and quite obviously, he’ll be looking to capitalize on that dazzling display by putting in another radiant shift against Sevilla.
However, in his way will be the Rojiblancos’ skipper Coke, who is well versed in dealing with players of Sterling’s caliber and potential.
At 28 years of age, Coke is defensively astute and is in the prime of his career. However, like his team, his start to the current La Liga campaign has not been very impressive and it looks like Sterling will take complete advantage of this fact. However, given that the magnitude of the game is pretty high, Coke might turn up and put in a cracking shift for Emery’s side tomorrow evening.
#2 Kevin De Bruyne vs Grzegorz Krychowiak
Kevin De Bruyne has hit the ground running in Manchester since his move from German side Wolfsburg in the summer and in the absence of David Silva, he’ll be looking to take the creative mantle into his own hands.
Capable of playing anywhere in an attacking trio, De Bruyne has bamboozled defenders in the Premier League with his trickery, deceptive pace and his ability to bury the ball into the back of the net from long range. He could’ve earned a brace in City’s thrashing of Bournemouth during the weekend but was denied by the crossbar on both the occasions.
However, the job of creating outlets for his striker and channels in which perhaps Sterling can run will be very difficult for the Belgian with robust Polish international Grzegorz Krychowiak keeping tabs on him. Krychowiak was signed by Sevilla from Reims in 2014 and has since been a pivotal cog in their engine room.
His role in Emery’s side bears a strong resemblance to the one Yaya Toure plays in Pellegrini’s team. Krychowiak hasn’t missed a single minute of football at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium this season and he’ll be trusted with the task of nullifying De Bruyne’s attacking threat by Emery who considers the Polish international as one of the best players at the club currently.
#3 Vincent Kompany vs Kevin Gameiro
The sole positive for Manchester City from the international break was the unscathed return of their captain Vincent Kompany. Having already lost Sergio Aguero and David Silva to cruel injuries, losing Kompany too would have been absolutely diabolical for the Citizens.
The backline at the Etihad Stadium has been constantly riddled with injury issues and a persistent lack of consistency and poor decision making.
Therefore, Kompany is often regarded as the glue to a rather dysfunctional City defence. After enduring a torrid Premier League campaign last season, it looks like the Belgian has come into this campaign with a point to prove and this was symbolized by his blistering start to the ongoing season against West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns, where he scored an amazing header and was a dictator at the back for the Etihad Stadium outfit.
Against Sevilla on Wednesday evening though, Kompany will face the tough task of keeping French international Kevin Gameiro quiet in front of goal.
Gamiero has been the only shimmering commodity in a rather dreary Sevilla side this term, scoring two goals in the La Liga (four goals in all competitions) and accruing one assist.
Best known for his ruthless finishing ability and effective hold-up play, Gameiro has looked, in simple words, scary in front of goal. Kompany will undoubtedly have his hands full tomorrow evening but if he manages to keep the French national quiet, City would have a really decent chance of picking up all three points on the night.