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Sky Blue News: Ferran Speaks, Group Stage Opens, Title Race, and More...

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Leicester City v Manchester City - Premier League Photo by Matt McNulty - Manchester City/Manchester City FC via Getty Images

Here come RasenBallsport Leipzig. Get caught up on all the latest Manchester City news before tonight’s Champions League Group Stage opener.

TORRES LOOKS AHEAD TO CHAMPIONS LEAGUE CURTAIN-RAISER - George Kelsey - ManCity.com

Ferran is ready, and he knows that City need to be focused on RBL.

Our first Group A match sees us welcome Leipzig to the Etihad Stadium, as they look to build some momentum after a slow start to the new Bundesliga season.

Nonetheless, Torres has pointed out that Die Roten Bullen, who reached the semi-finals of Europe’s elite competition in 2019-20 and have beaten both Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United in the past three seasons, aren’t to be taken lightly.

“It’s the Champions League, it’s the biggest tournament and you can’t relax,” the Spaniard said.

“Any team could beat you. They’re in that competition for a reason.

“We were very close to winning it last year. We did a great season in the Champions League and we won the Premier League, which is the most challenging competition because you have to be consistent for a whole year to be able to win it.

Ferran Torres issues Man City warning ahead of Champions League opener against RB Leipzig - George Smith - Manchester Evening News

The form has been good, but the Blues are taking the first step on a long road to return to the final.

After securing a third successive Premier League victory on Saturday afternoon, beating Leicester City 1-0 at the King Power Stadium, City’s attentions now switch to their first Champions League outing of the campaign.

City, who were beaten 1-0 in last season’s final by fellow English club Chelsea, will be hoping to go one better this time around and lay their hands on European club football’s ultimate prize for the very first time in their history. But to ensure that dream is still achievable by the turn of the year, Pep Guardiola’s side will have to navigate their way through what appears to be a potentially tricky looking group.

The reigning Premier League title holders have been joined in Group A by French giants Paris Saint-Germain, Club Brugge of Belgium and Wednesday’s opponents Leipzig of Germany. Despite being considered as one of the favourites to progress, along with PSG, Torres insists City cannot get ahead of themselves just because they reached last season’s final and won the Premier League.

Serdar Gözübüyük appointed referee for Manchester City vs RB Leipzig - Jack Lewis - City Report

The officiating crew for tonight has been named.

Dutch referee Serdar Gözübüyük has been appointed as referee for Manchester City’s Champions League curtain raiser against RB Leipzig. This will be only his second ever appointment in a match involving Manchester City - the last one against Dinamo Zagreb in 2019/20.

The Dutch official has officiated his fair share of Eridivisie games but the official doesn’t have much experience of officiating on the Champions League stage. The referee has only ever taken charge of one City game, the 2-0 win over Dinamo Zagreb in the 2019/20 group stage. This will be his first Champions League appearance of the season after officiating three games in the 20/21 season.

Champions League Group-By-Group Breakdown and Predictions - Jonathan Wilson - SI.com

Follow the link for predictions for all UCL groups. Group prediction below.

GROUP A

The standout games, clearly, will be those between Manchester City and PSG, the latter of which now boasts Lionel Messi, but it’s the presence of RB Leipzig that makes the group interesting. It’s always the third side that adds the element of danger. It looked last season as though City had finally cracked its glass ceiling, with highly impressive victories over Borussia Dortmund and, in the semifinal, PSG. But then in the final came another of Pep Guardiola’s mystifying player selections and defeat to Chelsea. City’s biggest opponent in Europe, it often feels, is its manager’s tendency to overthink big games.

Will Messi carry Paris Saint-Germain to the Champions League at last? He remains a brilliant attacking player, but scoring goals hasn’t really been an issue for PSG. The problem is the gulf that frequently opens up between the midfield and a forward line inconsistent in performing its defensive duties. The more valuable signings may be those of Achraf Hakimi, Sergio Ramos and Georginio Wijnaldum, and the Kylian Mbappé saga—whether he goes to Real Madrid now or becomes an out-of-contract wantaway star for the remainder of this season—hovers over everything.

Leipzig is perhaps not so strong as it has been, in transition after a second-place finish in the Bundesliga. U.S. manager Jesse Marsch has replaced Julian Nagelsmann, while Dayot Upamecano and Ibrahim Konaté have both left, placing a major strain on the center of the defense. Club Brugge, meanwhile, has never made it through the group stage of the Champions League, but Philippe Clement’s side has posed problems in the past two seasons, and center back Odilon Kossounou is the only major departure.

From a U.S. standpoint, in addition to Marsch, the group features three U.S. internationals in Man City’s Zack Steffen, Leipzig’s Tyler Adams and Brugge’s Owen Otasowie.

Predicted order of finish: Manchester City, PSG, RB Leipzig, Club Brugge

Why Man City manager Pep Guardiola faces difficult Kevin De Bruyne decision - George Smith - Manchester Evening News

KDB will be ready soon. Who’s minutes will suffer when Pep’s on-field maestro returns?

Over the course of a season, admittedly, the likelihood of Rodri, Gundogan and Bernardo out-scoring or out-assisting De Bruyne is slim. After all, the former Chelsea man is City’s architect-in-chief. But who would be sacrificed for De Bruyne to come back into the side when taking into account how City are performing at this moment in time?

In terms of a like-for-like swap, Bernardo would probably the most obvious candidate. He is considered as the most attack-minded player of the current three playing in the centre of the park. Taking Rodri out of the fold for De Bruyne could leave Guardiola’s side lacking bite and aggression in the middle, meaning it could expose them to more threatening attacks.

Three Advantages Manchester City Have Over Rivals in Title Race - Emmanuel Odey - Bitter and Blue

Emmanuel lays out the case for City to lift the EPL trophy once more.

Harry Kane’s choice to stay put at Tottenham also gives the Lillywhites an undeniable boost. His partnership with Heung-min Son can lift the club to perform beyond expectations as has happened before. Mikel Arteta and Arsenal have been wounded early on. The Gunners now have a point to prove.

Where does this leave Manchester City? The Blues face a tough task defending their title. It does seem the neutrals will want any other team but City lifting the Premier League title this time around. Cross city rivals Manchester United went the extra mile to bring back their former star man back in the quest to bring the trophy back to Old Trafford.

He brought with him a massive following. While City vs Leicester City highlights got a few hundreds of thousands views on City’s YouTube channel, Man United vs Newcastle United got over nine million. Fortunately, that’s not what determines results in the end.

Pep Guardiola wants Manchester City to sign Leeds United star - Rohan Sengupta - Man City Square

Another name enters the City transfer rumor mill.

Fichajes claims Guardiola has requested Manchester City to make a move for Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips as he eyes a long-term replacement for Fernandinho.

Fernandinho, 36, signed a one-year contract in June that keeps him at Manchester City until the summer of 2022. The Brazilian midfielder has been pivotal to City’s success under Guardiola, helping the Mancunian club to three Premier League titles in the last four seasons.

However, with Fernandinho in the autumn of his career and Rodri yet to fully convince since arriving from Atletico Madrid in 2019, Guardiola is keen on signing Kalvin Phillips.

Phillips, 25, has enjoyed great 12-15 months since achieving promotion with Leeds last year. Such has been his impact that the midfielder has managed to cement his place in Gareth Southgate’s England squad and was one of his nation’s shining stars in the summer’s European Championships.

MCATEE NAMED PL2 PLAYER OF THE MONTH - Neil Leigh - ManCity.com

And finally, more accolades for young James. How long until he presses for time with the First Team?

McAtee claimed a second half treble in our first home game of the 2021-22 campaign against Blackburn, helping City come from 2-1 down to claim a thrilling 4-2 victory.

A week later, the 18-year-old claimed another magnificent hat-trick as City secured a superb 4-2 derby victory away to Manchester United.

The Premier League Football Development Panel nominated and chose the 18-year-old as this month’s winner after PL2 club coaches picked out the best performance by an opposing player in each of their league matches during the month.

That’s all for now. Come back tomorrow for all the reaction to Man City’s UEFA Champions League Group Stage opener.