Prior to the start of the international break, Manchester City will take on two knockout games, starting with the second leg of their Round of 16 UEFA Champions League (UCL) match against RB Leipzig of Germany. The defending Premier League (PL) winners are heavy favorites to advance to the quarterfinals of this competition for the sixth straight year after earning a 1-1 draw in Leipzig last month.
A four-game winning streak in all competitions since their last encounter with Leipzig, during which they outscored their opponents 10 goals to one, will give them even more confidence. Guardiola described the 1-1 draw in the first leg as “delightful,” and he should be confident about getting past this hurdle given that his club is currently on a nine-game winning streak at home against German opponents in UEFA competition, which includes a 6-3 thrashing of Leipzig in the 2021–2022 group stage.
Leipzig lost to English opponents in one of two multi-goal defeats they experienced when visiting England (5-0 and 2-0) in 2020–21, eliminating them from the UCL Round of 16. They steamrolled Mönchengladbach after halftime at the weekend (3-0) to get back on track after a 2-1 loss away to Dortmund that was “impossible to swallow,” according to manager Marco Rose, and they are still in the running for a spot in the upcoming UCL.
Under Rose’s leadership, they have significantly improved, finishing their group stage campaign with four straight wins, including victory “to zero” at Celtic and Shakhtar Donetsk. In the final stages of the Europa League last season, the Germans were able to follow home leg draws with away victories against Real Sociedad and Atalanta, but it will be more harder for them to become the first team since Lyon in 2018/19 to win at Etihad in a UEFA match.
After scoring before halftime in three of City’s four victories since being left off the roster for the previous match, Phil Foden pushed his case for a start here. Despite not scoring that night, Emil Forsberg will be eager for another chance after doing so in Leipzig’s last three Bundesliga games.
Guardiola is expected to have a completely healthy team for the second leg after Phil Foden survived a scare with a foot injury to play at Selhurst Park, so “Pep roulette” may very well be in effect.
Kevin De Bruyne, who was a substitute in the victory over Crystal Palace, could push his way back into the starting lineup. Riyad Mahrez and Kyle Walker, who have both recently been accused of flashing, should also be recalled.
Mahrez received a full day of rest over the weekend, and the Algerian’s propensity for scoring against Leipzig should undoubtedly work in his favor when Guardiola selects him – he has done so in each of his three Champions League games thus far against Die Roten Bullen.
While recovering from a chronic knee injury, Leipzig’s hat-trick hero Nkunku has developed a new hamstring issue and is predicted to miss the game along with Xaver Schlager, Peter Gulacsi, and Abdou Diallo.
Schlager may miss the remainder of the season owing to an ankle ligament tear he experienced in the defeat to Dortmund on March 4. Rose’s team was also completely ravaged by infection prior to the victory over Gladbach.
Despite being rumored to be feeling under the weather, Werner, Konrad Laimer, Dominik Szoboszlai, and Lukas Klostermann all made the team on Saturday; Klostermann, however, was just a substitute.
Ederson, Walker, Akanji, Dias, Ake, De Bruyne, Rodri, Gundogan, Mahrez, Haaland, and Grealish might be Manchester City’s starting lineup.
Blaswich, Henrichs, Orban, Gvardiol, Halstenberg, Laimer, Haidara, Szoboszlai, Forsberg, Werner, and Silva might be in the starting lineup for RB Leipzig.
We predict: Manchester City 2-1 RB Leipzig (Man City win 3-2 on aggregate)
Even without Nkunku, who was unable to match his incredible treble from 18 months ago, we can see that defenses will not typically prevail when Man City and Leipzig square off.
The Citizens should win by a slim margin to maintain their Champions League hopes, but home field advantage and injuries to crucial Leipzig players will undoubtedly go in their favor. While patience may be the name of the game, as it was at Selhurst Park, Guardiola’s team should prevail.