The Champions League is here! The most prestigious club competition in the world has begun this week, and Manchester City make their season debut in Group F away to Feyenoord in Rotterdam.
This promises to be a tough test for the Blues, who have been boosted by the win at Liverpool but have to travel to the Netherlands for a difficult meeting with the Dutch champions. Feyenoord have a strong defense and a high-scoring attack in domestic competition, so they’ll look to bring their dominant display in the Eredivisie over to Europe as well.
De Kuip, as the Feyenoord Stadium is best known, is one of the top atmospheres in European football and City will definitely not have an easy night there. There’s still a big gap in talent between the two sides, though, so while this isn’t an easy match City can be considered strong favorites to start their European journey with a win.
With a tough trip to Watford in the Premier League around the corner, Pep Guardiola could be looking to make a few changes from the team that beat Liverpool, so let’s try and predict the starting eleven for Wednesday night.
When Sadio Mané’s boot hit the face of City goalkeeper Éderson, it seemed like the Brazilian would be out for a while, but he avoided injuries and is wearing a protective helmet for now. Guardiola said he is in contention to start against Feyenoord, and given Éderson’s current form and the fact he’s 100% healthy and fit to play, we’ll probably see him in goal.
Vincent Kompany is not yet ready to return to action due to a calf problem, so John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi will probably start in the center of defense. Kyle Walker, Danilo Luiz and Benjamin Mendy are all in contention to start in the two full-back spots, but Danilo seems to be more of a versatile defenders than the actual starts, so Walker and Mendy get the nod here.
There shouldn’t be any change in midfield, as Fernandinho will most likely start in the central defensive position with Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva ahead of him. The front three is the one subject to change with Leroy Sané deserving a start and the return of Raheem Sterling from suspension. Pep will probably start the two together given Feyenoord have a slow backline and the pace from the two City wingers could cause the hosts plenty of trouble.
If Sané and Sterling start, there’s the impossible choice of Sergio Agüero or Gabriel Jesus, but we think Agüero will get the nod here with Jesus coming off the bench. Feyenoord will defend deep and Sergio has more of a presence in the box. Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan should also be mentioned as possible starters, but they’ll probably sit on the bench for this one.
Predicted XI (4-1-4-1): Éderson; Walker, Stones, Otamendi, Mendy; Fernandinho; Sterling, De Bruyne, Silva, Sané; Agüero
Bitter and Blue XI (4-3-3): Bravo; Walker, Stones, Otamendi, Mendy; De Bruyne, Fernandinho, Bernardo; G.Jesus, Agüero, Sané
The Dutch champions lost their best player over the summer, club legend Dirk Kuyt who announced his retirement after coming back to help Feyenoord win the Eredivisie title last season. Kuyt was the heart, soul and skill of this team, and while they’ve started the season with four wins in four league matches, they won’t have their top scorer and captain for a tough Champions League group.
To make things worse for manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst, his best full-back Ridgeciano Haps and his top striker Nicolai Jorgensen will not face City on Wednesday because of injuries. Feyenoord relied on Haps’ service to get Jorgensen goals, and this lethal combination will be missed against the Blues.
Feyenoord will most likely stick with their 4-3-3 formation and will have Michiel Kramer in place of Jorgensen up front, a considerable downgrade in quality up front. The hosts will most likely press high for the first few minutes but will eventually defend deep inside their own half, looking to hurt City on the counter and set pieces. Their danger man will be midfielder Tonny Vilhena, who has the pace and skill to find a goal or an assist out of nowhere.
More importantly for Feyenoord, they’ll be hoping that the amazing atmosphere at De Kuip is translated into a spirited performance and a shocking result against City.
Predicted XI: Jones; Diks, Botteghin, Heijden, Nelom; Ahmadi, Toornstra, Vilhena; Berghuis, Kramer, Boëtius
Man City (4-3-3): Éderson; Walker, Stones, Otamendi, Mendy; De Bruyne, Fernandinho, Silva; Bernardo, Agüero, G.Jesus
Feyenoord (4-3-3): Jones; St.Juste, Botteghin, Heijden, Nelom; Amrabat, Ahmadi, Vilhena; Berghuis, Kramer, Boëtius