Let’s face it, they’re never going to adopt the Brazilian mentality at Manchester City. It’d be nice to see Roberto Mancini throw caution to the wind and allow his players off the leash. With the attack-minded players he has at his disposal, he should be able to take the emphasis away from defending, safe in the knowledge that his three or four strikers will do the business and outscore the other lot. Perhaps he could allow one of his holding midfielders a break and allow Carlos Tevez to join in the goalscoring fun with Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero. In midfield this season, we’ve seen Gareth Barry, Nigel De Jong, Yaya Toure and Owen Hargreaves turn out for City. You only need one of the players in your side per game; possibly you could argue the need for two if you’re that desperate to secure just the one point from a match.
Anyway, a scoreline of Bayern 4-3 City this evening is about as likely as Sir Alex Ferguson warmly congratulating a referee after United have not got the result/penalty/penalties/red cards/17 minutes of stoppage time they were after. So Mancini will turn up at the Allianz Arean tonight to defend. Fair enough. They are playing the Bundesliga leaders away from home. It’s just a shame that they probably won’t even consider scoring a goal. The correct way to play this tough away fixture is to soak up the pressure and attempt to catch the home side on the break (see Nottingham Forest, 1975-1993).
Bayern have been scoring for fun this season and have not conceded since their surprise opening day home defeat against Borussia Monchengladbach so City have their work cut out whatever they try. But not many would deny that they not only have the players to frustrate Die Roten but also the attacking talent to nick the odd goal.
So, while it might be a bit rich to give tips to a top European coach, it’s not like he’s going listen. Even if he read this. So here goes…
I’m not convinced Joleon Lescott is up to it but then Kolo Toure has been out of action for a while. If you are going to throw Lescott in there, put Toure and Kompany alongside him in a five-man defence. As for the full backs, whether it’s Gael Clichy, Aleksander Kolarov, Pablo Zabaletta or Micah Richards particularly, warn them not to go diving in against the likes of Arjen Robben, Toni Kroos and Frank Ribery. An early booking, and you’re in for a tough night against these lads. Stay on your feet, keep your eye on the ball and stop the crosses. Easier said than done, granted.
In midfield, play Yaya Toure in the middle. He can play the holding role and also loves to get forward whenever there’s space. Gareth Barry will be out of his depth up against Bastian Schweinsteiger. He’ll never do it but Mancini should play Adam Johnson and James Milner on the wings from the start. In Johnson, you have pace and skill to catch Bayern on the break and while Milner will bomb forward and provide crosses for the front men, he also drops back and helps out the defence when needed. The midfield will have to do a lot of running to keep up with this Bayern side.
Up front, take your pick I suppose. Although I’d rule out Mario Balotelli. It’s difficult to see him putting in the hard work necessary for this type of fixture. Everyone needs to be at the top of their game and willing to run around. Any two from Tevez, David Silva and Sergio Aguero you could see linking up effectively.
One more thing: set pieces. They could prove crucial during a game in which you’re trying to defend so make yours count. There is no excuse for sending a free kick into the wall or row z. Anyone who fails to beat the first defender from a corner should be fined two weeks’ wages. Dog and Duck League or Champions League, it should not happen.
Facing Mario Gomez, Thomas Muller, Arjen Robben, Frank Ribery and Toni Kroos in the Allianz will probably be a more daunting task than Spurs at White Hart Lane or Bolton at the Reebok earlier this season. This will be Mancini’s toughest test of the season and it’d be nice to see him send out his players to attack Bayern. I don’t see them being able to keep the FC Hollywood front line quiet all game so they’ll need goals if they want to take anything from this tie.
Prediction:Bayern Munich 2-0 Manchester City City defence will be breached and Joe Hart will prove he is not as great as people have been making out.