Manchester City are in the Champions League group stage, but still have to go through the formality of the Playoff second leg on Wednesday. After thrashing the opposition in Romania last Tuesday with an easy, dominant 5-0 victory, the Citizens are not just in prime position to win the tie and advance. They HAVE won the tie and advanced.
Everyone knows it, yet we still have this match to play. There is one positive, though: it's the first taste of Champions League football at the Etihad Stadium for City and Pep Guardiola this season. The club has been actively campaigning for fans to be at the stadium for the first European game of the campaign, and it looks like the venue will have a nice attendance regardless of how competitive the actual game is.
The result does matter tomorrow, but a lot of things come first. Playing well, testing players, giving a few a golden chance, entertaining the crowd. Most of all, make sure that "Manchester City" will be inside one of the Pot 2 balls on Thursday's group stage draw. No pressure.
Date/Time: Wednesday, August 24, 2016, 7:45pm local time (BST), 2:45pm ET, 11:45am PT, 12:15am IST (India, next day)
Venue: Etihad Stadium (City of Manchester Stadium to UEFA), Manchester, England
Referee: Pawel Gil (POL)
On TV: Fox Sports 1 (US), Fox Deportes (US - Spanish), TSN1, TSN4, RDS2 (Canada), BT Sport 2 (UK), TEN 1, TEN 2 (India), elsewhere
Online streaming: Fox Sports GO, FoxSoccer2GO (US), BT Sport Live Streaming (UK), elsewhere
Man City team news: Pep Guardiola said in press conference that he plans a rotation of the squad. Some think it's a small rotation, some think it's a big one with even some Academy players. Guardiola might be somewhere in the middle, resting some key players for the weekend (West Ham) but still keeping a strong side good enought to dominate and beat Steaua again.
More importantly, it looks as though Pep will give a chance to two players who appeared to be out of his plans: both Joe Hart and Yaya Touré are likely to start, and need to have big games in order to prove themselves to Guardiola. Other than the two, Fabian Delph, Jesus Navas and Kelechi Iheanacho are also expected to play from the first whistle. There is a slight chance that new signing Leroy Sané makes his debut in the second half, but he won't start. The bad news is Bacary Sagna, out three weeks with a hamstring injury.
Predicted starting lineup (very fluid 4-1-4-1):
Hart | Zabaleta, Adarabioyo, Kolarov, Clichy | Fernando | Navas, Touré, Delph, Nolito | Iheanacho
Steaua Bucharest team news: Manager Laurentiu Reghecampf also plans to rotate the squad. He said himself he knows the tie is over, so he will give a few reserves the chance to play in a big European stadium and also build the fitness for the season in Romania. Other than that, not much else.