Last night’s 3-0 win over FC Viktoria Plzen in the Czech Republic represents a solid start to Manchester City’s UEFA Champions League campaign and there was much to admire about their performance. However, with a league match against Manchester United up next, City still have some areas of concern.
Clearly, this weekend’s derby match sees City up against far tougher opposition than last night. United’s lineup for their European opener against Bayer Leverkusen was very strong, and they too managed a good result, winning 4-2. For the first time under David Moyes, they played Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa together—a frightening array of attacking talent that will cause City problems should they all start again on Sunday.
City must sort out their lackadaisical start to matches. They have scored just two first-half goals in their five games so far this season, and last night the tempo of their passing was too slow in the first 45 minutes, meaning Plzen were more comfortable than they should have been.
The first goal is very often vital in determining the outcome of a football match, and City must start getting on the front foot earlier if they want to dominate at home and abroad.
Another area of concern is City’s left-back spot. Aleksandar Kolarov has looked better so far this season than last, but again last night he was a weak link that better teams would have been able to exploit. Defensively he struggles and sometimes looks out of tune with the rest of the back four.
He was booked early on last night and could have been sent off for a challenge not long after, but his discipline was good after that, much to City’s relief. Going forward, he put in some excellent deliveries, including a peach of a ball that Edin Dzeko really should have scored with in the first half, but he remained a liability defensively.
As revealed by the Guardian's Jamie Jackson on Twitter, Gael Clichy is struggling to make Sunday’s match, and if he does miss out United will no doubt be focusing on Kolarov as a player they can get at. United have great strength in wide areas, and, with his goal and good performance last night, Antonio Valencia may well be given the nod on Sunday with the remit of doing as much damage to the Serbian as possible.
Pellegrini more hopeful on Silva than Clichy for derby...— jamie jackson (@GuardianJamieJ) September 17, 2013
There are plenty of positives for City, though. The return of Vincent Kompany is vital, and the fact that he managed 90 minutes last night was perfect preparation for the United match. City look so much stronger with him in the side, and his fitness is becoming key to their chances of success.
David Silva could also return to the starting XI this weekend, and he will be vitally important to City’s fluidity in attack. Samir Nasri was very good last night, but Silva would undoubtedly make City stronger if he proves his fitness to Pellegrini.
With plenty of time between now and Sunday for both sides to recover from their European exertions, it all looks set to be a fantastic Manchester derby.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @TypicalCity