The Champions League magic is back, folks! Tonight, starting 19:45 GMT, on “St. Jakob Park”, we have FC Basel – Manchester City, in the first leg of the 1/8 of the competition.
Basel – Is currently second in the Swiss championship, with 41 points from 21 fixtures, 41-17 aggregate. Recovered a 0-1 loss at home against Lugano, after the winter break, with three points at Thun (2-0) on the weekend. Has the best defense in the league and second best attack, scoring 1.95 goals per game. Survived a group with Manchester United, CSKA Moscow and Benfica to finish second, conceding just 5 goals. “If we are to fight in such competitions we need a perfect game, a perfect day and to show a lot of courage. We need the spectators to help us too. We have to be realistic. We won’t have 50-60 percent ball possession. We need to be compact and be careful but there will be moments when we have the ball,” declared coach Raphael Wicky. The former Swiss international practically explained that his team is going to play on the counter-attack. In a league where Basel players usually are the ones having the ball, will be quite interesting to see how they manage to play without it.
Injured: Luca Zuffi and Germano Vailati
Probably line-up: Vaclik; Lang, Suchy, Balanta, Petretta; Xhaka, Die; Stocker, Elyounoussi, Bua; Van Wolfswinkel
Manchester City – Dominates Premier League with a 16-points margin separating Guardiola’s men from Manchester United. Has the best attack in the championship, with 2.92 goals scored per game. This weekend, the Citizens demolished Leicester in a 5-1 win, with 70% possession. Aguero was (once again) the main man, getting on the scoreboard on four occasions. The Argentinian striker now has 21 goals in the Premier League. Add three more in the Champions League group stages, and you’ll see that Maradona’s former son-in-law has a great season, despite some early conflict with Pep. And if we’re talking about City’s Champions League path, there was only one side slip, that 1-2 defeat on the road, against Shakhtar, in a moment when the “Blues” were sure about their 1st place finish. “We are going to try. In every single game since we were together for 18 months, we try to impose our game. The Champions League is a completely different competition than the local league, the Premier League. Because the physicality, and the quality of the opponents, individually and collectively, is higher. Hopefully we can control it as good as possible and go through,” said Guardiola, according to Independent, when speaking about if his team is going to impose the same possession game.
Injured: Gabriel Jesus, Benjamin Bendy and Fabian Delph
Probably line-up: Ederson; Walker, Laporte, Otamendi, Danilo; De Bruyne, Fernandinho, Gundogan; B. Silva, Aguero, Sterling
With Danilo having much more experience, the former Real Madrid defender will probably start instead of Zinchenko in Basel – Manchester City. David Silva and Leroy Sane are not that far from a return on the field, but they’ll probably sit this one out. Both Vaclik and Ederson conceded just 5 goals in the group stages, so there’s a long distance duel that we should be looking for. But the most interesting factor is that Guardiola won just four away matches with his teams in the knockout stages of the competition. So why are we being this confident on a City win? Well, it’s certainly the formation and what comes from it – in a 4-3-3 lineup, Pep will have his boys dominate the center of the pitch. And although Basel’s players are decent enough, they don’t usually experience the kind of pressure City is going to exert to recover the ball. The outcome? Many lose balls. It won’t necessarily be easy or pretty, but the Citizens should make a big first step towards the next round of the Champions League with a win in the first leg of the FC Basel – Manchester City clash.
Prediction: Manchester City to win, odds 1.38
FC Basel - Manchester City