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Champions League: Away form haunts City in Leipzig test

What’s important is to have some possession and not just run after the ball: Christopher Nkunku

Our Bureau Manchester Published 22.02.23, 06:03 AM
Pep Guardiola

Pep Guardiola File Photo

Pep Guardiola’s last visit to the Red Bull Arena to play RB Leipzig wasn’t a comfortable one as Manchester City had lost that Champions League group stage game last season 1-2. Guardiola and City will be more alert this time as they travel to Germany to take on the same opponents in their first knockout match of this edition of the Champions League on Wednesday.

City have had a mixed build-up before the game. While they were on a high after beating Premier League title rivals Arsenal 3-1, their confidence stumbled three days later as they were held to a 1-1 draw at Nottingham Forest on Saturday after missing chances galore. What would be worrying Guardiola further is the fact that they have now failed to win four of their last five away matches in all competitions.


City would look to Erling Haaland for goals. The striker has hit six goals in four previous appearances against Leipzig, scoring three separate braces against them while playing for his previous club, Borussia Dortmund. Haaland has averaged a goal every 60 minutes across his four appearances versus Leipzig.

Also key for City will be Jack Grealish. The England winger has become Guardiola’s g o - t o g u y. Grealish has started in City’s last seven games in the Premier League and the last nine games in all competitions, having cemented his place on the left wing. Leipzig are fifth in the German league and have lost only once in their last 20 games in all competitions. “We are well prepared, have trust in the team,” said Leipzig coach Marco Rose.

“What’s important is to have some possession and not just run after the ball.” Leipzig’s Christopher Nkunku is doubtful for Wednesday despite having made a comeb a ck f ro m injury last week.

The France international had been out since mid-November with an ankle injury but made his comeback in their win over VfL Wolfsburg on Saturday delivering one assist. “Christo could only complete part of the training today (Tuesday) because there was some reaction (from his injury),” Rose said. Wednesday’s match will also see “Little Pep” play against Pep’s team. Leipzig’s Croatian centre-back Joško Gvardiol is nicknamed “Little Pep” because of the similarities of his last name with that of City’s manager.

Inter stance

Inter Milan will not underestimate Porto in their Champions League last-16 first leg on Wednesday despite being favourites to progress, manager Simone Inzaghi said on Tuesday. Inter are second in Serie A having won three of their last four domestic league matches but face a Porto side with10 consecutive victories in all competitions so far this year. “...we respect them (Porto) a lot. They always or almost always manage to make it to the knockout stages... We are confident and in good shape,” Inzaghi said.

Alves appeal rejected

A Spanish court rejected a request by Brazilian football player Dani Alves to be released from jail on remand as the investigation over an alleged sexual assault in a Barcelona night club continues, the regional court said on Tuesday. The 39-year-old, who has denied any wrongdoing, was jailed on remand without bail on January. 20 after a local woman filed a complaint last month about an event at the exclusive Sutton nightclub in the city centre.

Police are investigating and the case remains open over a crime of sexual assault. Alves’ lawyer had asked for him to be released on bail if he surrendered his passport and wore an electronic tag, arguing that he had family ties in Spain. However, the court rejected the arguments and ordered him to remain on remand at the Brians 2 prison on the outskirts of Barcelona.

“There is a high risk of fleeing as... the severe punishment he faces in the present case, the strong evidence of wrongdoing and his economic might would make it possible for him... to leave Spain at any time,” the court said. The case has attracted significant attention in Spain. Sexual assault has remained a dominant political theme since the 2016 gang-rape of a teenager during the San Fermin bull-running festival which led to the toughening of sexual violence laws in the country. (Reuters)

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