Verdict: Total goals over 3.5
Best odds: 7/5
The 2020-21 Champions League roller coaster continues this week with a number of interesting clashes in the round of 16. The one between Borussia Monchengladbach and Manchester City, set to take place on Wednesday evening at the Puskas Arena in Budapest, is certainly among them.
Interestingly enough, this will be the seventh time these clubs meet – the most for either side when it comes to facing a certain opponent in a European competition.
Things haven’t been going too well for Gladbach this term. They reached the Champions League by finishing fourth in the Bundesliga last term, and at the moment, it seems highly unlikely that they repeat that success. They are in eighth place with 33 points, nine less than Eintracht Frankfurt in fourth (and Wolfsburg in third), four less than Bayer Leverkusen in fifth, and three less than Borussia Dortmund in sixth. Union Berlin in seventh have the same tally as Gladbach.
The last six matches Marco Rose’s side have played have seen them win twice, draw twice and lose twice, and while a 4-2 win over Dortmund at home and 1-2 away to VfB Stuttgart in the third round of the DFB-Pokal can be considered great results, the home defeats to FC Koln and Mainz 05 (both 1-2) certainly can’t. The two draws were 1-1 away to Union, and 0-0 against Wolfsburg, also away. These recent result could be argued to have been under the impact of Rose’s imminent departure to Dortmund at the end of the season.
On the other hand, they will be happy with what they’ve done in the Champions League so far. They managed to pass through a difficult Group B, finishing second to Real Madrid and above Shakhtar Donetsk and Inter Milan.
Speaking ahead of this match, Rose urged his team to be brave against the Premier League leaders, stating that the best way to limit the quality of Manchester City is to not allow them as much time on the ball as they’re used to having.
Gladbach apparently have no issues with missing players at the moment. There are no ongoing injuries or suspensions, and all players will be highly motivated. It will be interesting to see the lineup Rose goes for, but many expect the pacey Breel Embolo to start in attack and pose a significant threat to City’s high defensive line.
The season maybe hasn’t gone too well for Gladbach so far, but it has gone very well for Manchester City. After a relatively shaky start, they look like a well-oiled machine at the moment and have been winning left, right and centre.
Naturally, they won all of their last six matches; 0-2 away to Burnley, 1-4 away to league champions Liverpool, 1-3 away to Championship side Swansea in the fifth round of the FA Cup, 3-0 at home against Tottenham Hotspur, 1-3 away to Everton and 0-1 away to Arsenal. Their form is obviously superb and they look very strong in all segments of the game.
That form has seen Pep Guardiola’s side rise rapidly through the Premier League table and now they hold the top spot firmly, 10 points above city rivals United in second and Leicester City in third, 14 above West Ham in fourth, 16 above Chelsea in fifth and 19 above Liverpool in sixth. The title is certainly theirs to lose, and apart from that, they are set to face Spurs in the Carabao Cup final on April 25th, and the favourites for the FA Cup as well.
City finished top of Group C in the Champions League, winning all but one of the matches in that stage. FC Porto, Olympiacos and Olympique Marseille have all been left behind.
Guardiola won’t be able to call upon defender Nathan Ake through injury, but he will be glad to have midfielder Kevin de Bruyne and striker Sergio Aguero available again. Midfielders Rodri and Phil Foden, as well as defender Kyle Walker, were rested against Arsenal on Sunday and all three are expected to start.
City have long been dreaming about winning the Champions League. Given that Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini both delivered the Premier League title before him, logic suggests that Guardiola was actually hired to bring in this particular trophy, which would set them firmly among the European elite. The Catalan tactician has failed on that front so far, but make no mistake, it could finally happen this year.
Be that as it may, City are the favourites against Gladbach and they’ll be looking to gain a considerable advantage right from the start, and await the return leg in comfort. But the match should be an interesting one, nonetheless, especially if Rose holds to his word and set his men up to attack. There should be a fair number of chances, and hopefully goals.
Verdict: Total goals over 3.5
Best odds: 7/5