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Manchester City’s quest for a first Champions League title begins in Budapest on Wednesday when they battle Borussia Monchengladbach.
Die Fohlen are on the home side after the match got moved to a neutral venue because of Germany’s UK travel ban.
These are two sides that are very familiar with each other in European competition.
Wednesday will mark the seventh time these teams have faced each other, which is the most games for both teams against a single opponent in Europe.
For Man City, the only injury concern is Nathan Ake. The Dutch centre-back continues to recover from a muscular problem.
Kevin De Bruyne returned to the lineup in the teams 1-0 win against Arsenal.
Sergio Aguero is available, while Rodri and Phil Foden should see action after being rested this weekend.
Kyle Walker could also drawback in for Oleksandr Zinchenko.
There are no injuries to report for Gladbach, which is good news for Marco Rose’s side looking to end the Sky Blues 18-match winning streak.
Breel Embolo may start in attack, and Denis Zakaria is likely to feature and bolster a midfield who will have their work cut out for them.
Road to the Knockout stage
As good as City’s been against English opponents, Pep Guardiola’s men were arguably more impressive in the Champions League’s group stage.
The Citizens topped group C with five wins and a draw conceding just once.
Die Fohlen did well to get to this stage, finishing second behind Real Madrid in a group that also featured last season’s Europa League finalists Inter and Ukrainian powerhouse Shakhtar Donetsk.
While City focused on stopping goals in the round-robin stage, the Germans were keen to score goals and did it 16 times in six matches.
Brand new territory
It’s not unusual for Man City to make the knockout stage of this competition, but it’s been quite some time since Gladbach has done so.
It’s been 43 years since they made the knockout stage in the Champions League/European Cup. It was the 1977-78 season when they lost 4-2 to Liverpool in the semi-finals. The Reds went on to win the European Cup.
City has made the last 16 of this competition eight straight times, the longest run for an English side.
Things couldn’t be going much better for Man City at the moment.
Eighteen wins in all competitions, they head into this game with a 100% record this year and 10 points ahead in the Premier League title race.
For Die Fohlen, it’s been very different in 2021.
After starting the year with two straight wins, including a 2-1 win over defending champions Bayern Munich, things have gone south lately for the Bundesliga side.
Gladbach is winless in their last three matches in the Bundesliga, currently in eighth place, 16 back of leaders Bayern Munich.
If there’s any Gladbach player with bad memories of playing Man City, it’s their goalkeeper Yann Sommer.
The Swiss keeper has had a downright miserable go of it against the Sky Blues.
In four previous European games against City, Gladbach’s vice-captain has conceded 11 goals.
There’s a couple of City strikers licking their chops about the prospect of facing Borussia Monchengladbach again.
One of those is Sergio Aguero, who’s scored five times against the German side, including a hat-trick in a 4-0 win back in 2016.
Raheem Sterling will remember the previous meeting between these sides well. It was on 8 December 2015 when he notched two goals in a 4-2 victory.
One player Man City will have their eyes on is midfielder Alassane Plea.
The French striker will hope the long Champions League layoff won’t affect his form in this competition. Plea scored five goals in the opening round.
He was involved in more goals in the group stage than any other player.
Marco Rose will hope to end his career as manager of Monchengladbach on a high note.
The man from Leipzig isn’t exactly a popular figure amongst the fans these days. This month, Rose announced he’s leaving to join Gladbach’s bitter rival Borussia Dortmund next season.
Pulling off an upset against Man City might get him back in the good graces of the fans.
Head to Head
Historically these sides have met each other six times with Man City winning three and losing only one.
These teams have only met once in the knockout stage way back in the 1978-79 UEFA Cup. The Germans came away victorious in the quarter-finals 4-2 on aggregate.
City boss Pep Guardiola says he doesn’t put much stock in experience for competitions like this.
“I’m not a fan of saying experience in the past helps you. Football shows you lots of examples of teams winning a lot of Champions League winners, and you can lose in 20 minutes,” he says.
“It’s a game; we have to be focused for 90 minutes like we do in the Premier League. The only difference is players don’t know the Monchengladbach players that well.”
The game from Puskas Arena in Hungary kicks off at 8 pm. (JSL).