How Manchester City Can Stop Guardiola's Free-Scoring Bayern Munich
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Manchester City will need to reach their very best form, seen fleetingly this season, to get the better of Bayern Munich on Wednesday.
The clash at Etihad Stadium has the potential to be one of the highlights of Matchday Two in the Champions League, but City must put both their Jekyll and Hyde domestic form and their travails in Europe's elite competition firmly behind them.
But first, some context. It's a habit of football writing to compare previous meetings or campaigns when looking ahead to an upcoming fixture, and given changes in playing and management staff in between these comparisons are often pointless.
While many players on both sides who will play this week featured when the Bavarian aristocrats and the moneyed Mancunian upstarts met two years ago, there have been significant changes around both clubs.
City have won the Premier League, but sacked the manager in charge at the time for failing to hit his targets a year later. Bayern changed their boss in a much smoother transition, having won the Champions' Trophy for the fifth time.
So, how can City stop the Munich machine? By getting a grip on proceedings early, and by not letting go when they do.
Manuel Pellegrini's side put an indifferent start behind them to sweep Viktoria Plzen out of the way 3-0 two weeks ago, but such is the challenge posed by Pep Guardiola's team that the Blues cannot afford to start as lethargically as they did in the Czech Republic.
Yes, home and away ties ask different questions, but in six previous home Champions League games, City have only taken the lead first once. As it happens that was against Bayern on the way to a 2-0 win in 2011, but results elsewhere and their poor start in the group rendered that result meaningless.
An assertive start is a must, but the performance in their recent outing, the 3-2 loss at Aston Villa, will be a worry. City started well, but they did not capitalise on this with fatal results—Paul Lambert's spirited outfit hit back twice before Andreas Weimann got just enough on a punt upfield for the winning goal.
Vincent Kompany and Matija Nastasic were caught napping by Villa keeper Brad Guzan's clearance, and with players the calibre of Mario Mandzukic, Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery lurking, they must be on top form on Wednesday. Bayern look like they clicked into gear of late, and their five straight wins going into the meeting with City included two four-goal scorelines.
Pellegrini will go for either Alvaro Negredo or Edin Dzeko against Bayern, but either will need better service from the flanks than provided by James Milner and Samir Nasri last Saturday, per Paul Wilson in The Observer.
At this level, it's all about bringing your "A game", and City must do this against Bayern. Their best form was certainly on display in that superb 4-1 demolition of Man United, and even with outstanding opposition lying in wait, I think City could be about to unleash another stellar performance.
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