It’s match day four in the UEFA Champions League group stage for Manchester City, and Pep Guardiola’s side travel to face free-scoring Atalanta at the San Siro.
It’s unfamiliar territory for the blues, who are set to make their first ever appearance at the iconic Milan arena, and a win for the reigning Premier League champions would see them through to the knockout stages once again. Here’s everything you need to know going into Wednesday night’s clash…
With regard to injuries, City’s long-term absentees Leroy Sane, Oleksandr Zinchenko, and Aymeric Laporte are of course ruled out of Wednesday night’s game. Rodri did make a brief appearance in training on Tuesday morning, however did not partake in the full session, nor did he travel with the rest of the squad.
Added to that list is David Silva – Pep Guardiola has already suggested that the Spaniard will miss the weekend’s fixture against Liverpool, ruling him out for this game. Silva was also absent from the group that travelled to Milan yesterday.
Phil Foden was also missing from the travelling collection having picked up a harsh red card two weeks ago, so the youngster obviously won’t feature at the San Siro either.
For the Italian side, their in-form centre forward Duván Zapata will likely miss the game through injury. The Colombian was enjoying a fantastic season, with nine goal contributions in Atalanta’s opening seven league games, but has missed their last four matches through injury.
Head to Head
City and Atalanta’s head to head record stretches back to a fortnight ago, and no further – before our last meeting, the two sides had never met in a competitive game before.
That contest, if you don’t remember, ended 5-1 to the Blues at the Etihad, with Sergio Aguero’s brace adding to Raheem Sterling’s 11-minute hattrick in the second half.
Clearly favourites for tonight, Manchester City are coming in off of three wins from three in Group C. They’ve scored 10 goals in those games and have conceded just one – Ruslan Malinovskiy’s penalty on behalf of Atalanta.
The Italians are bottom of the group, having failed to register a single point in their opening games. Their league form certainly makes for far better reading – they sit fifth in Serie A, having only lost twice, and averaging just over three goals a game in their last six. This last weekend, however, did see them lose 2-0 at home to Cagliari.
Gian Piero Gasperini has largely implemented a 3-4-1-2 or 3-5-2 formation with Atalanta so far this season.
The Italians’ biggest weakness has to be their defence, having kept a clean sheet in just one game this season. This is likely a product, and a cause of, the manager’s constant changing of the three defenders. In contrast, their attacking prowess meant their 77 goals in Serie A last season was the league’s highest.
The free-roaming Papu Gomez is always a danger for Gasperini’s men – the Argentine can operate just off the striker and moves well into pockets of space to link up passages of play. He boasts nine goal contributions in Atalanta’s 12 league games in this campaign.
Duván Zapata is a big loss for Atalanta following his fantastic start to the season. Luis Muriel has operated as a good replacement, having scored five in two league games before blanking in his last two.
One danger to look out for is the utilisation of wingbacks in attack for Atalanta. Two of Hans Hateboer, Robin Gosens, Timothy Castagne will line up on the wings tonight, both hoping to cause problems for Guardiola’s men.
City fans will note Martin De Roon’s name on Gasperini’s team sheet and remember his cruel 91st-minute equalizer for Middlesbrough in Guardiola’s first season in England.
Pep’s Pre-Match Thoughts
Guardiola opened his press conference last night discussing the week ahead for the club, saying: “This is a great week for us. It is always good to come to Italy. To play Atalanta. We have the chance to qualify for the knock-out stages.”
On the status of tonight’s venue, San Siro, Pep said, “It’s legendary around the world. It is a special place to play. If they decide to change it, I am sure it will benefit Inter and Milan but I don’t know more than that.”
The manager also touched on the potential for round-of-16 qualification tonight.
“I want to qualify as soon as possible, I’m not thinking about rotating. I go game by game. Try to win tomorrow to be there one more year, that would be incredible but if not there is Shakhtar at home and Zagreb away.”
Pep added a touch of caution to his preview of the match, saying, “Before the first fixture there might have been danger but they have experienced exactly what it takes to come up against them. Now they know what to expect. We’ve prepared as best we can, we know it is always tough to come away in Europe.”
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