Manchester City are finally back to the winning ways in the Premier League with a successful visit to Crystal Palace in the first match back from the final international break of 2016. If the Premier League form is still inconsistent, things look a lot better in the Champions League.
After a magical victory against Barcelona at the Etihad three weeks ago, City look very strong in Europe, and now need just two points from their final two games to guarantee a spot in the knockout rounds. The Citizens are unlikely to top the group and could face teams like Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich in the Round of 16, but that won't happen if City don't qualify first, and that's the job to be done.
Ideally, Pep Guardiola and his men would rather get qualification with a game to spare so things don't get nervous in the group stage finale against Celtic in two weeks. The problem is that City visit Borussia Mönchengladbach, and that will not be easy. Just ask Barcelona, who needed two late goals to get a comeback win at Borussia-Park last month. Gladbach are very good at home, and the 4-0 victory City got against them in the group stage opener will not happen again.
But if City can beat Barça, they can beat anybody, anywhere, right?
Date/Time: Wednesday, November 23, 2016, 8:45pm local time (CET), 7:45pm BST (UK), 2:45pm ET, 11:45am PT (US), 1:15am IST (India, Thursday)
Venue: Borussia-Park, Mönchengladbach, Germany
Referee: Cüneyt Çakır (TUR)
TV listings: Fox Sports - local (US), BT Sport 2 (UK), beIN SPORTS (Canada), TEN1 HD (India), elsewhere
Man City: Vincent Kompany is injured and out for weeks again, Pablo Zabaleta and Fabian Delph are not fit, and Yaya Touré is not on the Champions League squad (yet). These are the four absentees Guardiola will have to deal with for this game. The rest of his squad is healthy, though, and having played Palace on Saturday, his main players had a good chance to recover and be at top fitness to start again in Germany.
Expect a very similar team to the one that played at Selhurst Park, though John Stones and David Silva are very likely to start. There's always the doubt between Gaël Clichy and Aleksandar Kolarov at left-back, and we can never forget the possibility of Pep using three at the back, which he has done throughout his career depending on his opponent. Let's wait and see, but expect a very strong lineup from the Sky Blues.
Gladbach: Coach Andre Schubert has most of his best players available, which has been rare in a season full of injuries for the Foals. Andreas Christensen, Mahmoud Dahoud, Lars Stindl, Raffael and Thorgan Hazard are all healthy and set to start together, and the five are the most talented players on this team, and all of them, especially the last three, will cause problems to the City defense.
Gladbach have lost only one of their last five games against a Pep Guardiola side, dating back to the Catalan's days at Bayern Munich. They hope that the good recent record and the Borussia-Park atmosphere will help them get a famous win and a vital result in their quest for a knockout stage place.
We're winning this one 3-1 with a lot of trouble. Gladbach are great at home and the game will be tense, but the talents from City will eventually take over. Agüero will score, maybe more than once.