Manchester City host Villarreal tonight in Group A of the Champions League. After a disappointing start to the campaign, City must beat the Spanish side to reignite their knockout hopes.
The Manchester club started with a hard fought and entertaining 1-1 draw at home to Napoli. A Aleksandar Kolarov free kick saved City on that occasion after Edinson Cavani had given Napoli a 69th minute lead.
Roberto Mancini’s men then suffered a disappointing 2-0 defeat to Bayern Munich on match day two, when Carlos Tevez’s refusal to play overshadowed an abject City performance. City were poor throughout and two first half Mario Gomez goals were enough to help Bayern to a comfortable victory.
The match is of equal importance to Villarreal, whose Champions League hopes are quickly fading. The Spanish side reached the knockout stages of the competition in 2005/06 and 2007/08 but a repeat this season seems unlikely. Villarreal began Group A with a 2-0 loss at home to Bayern Munich, with Toni Kroos and Rafinha scoring for the German team. The Spaniards then lost 2-0 away to Napoli. Marek Hamsik and Edinson Cavani scored for Napoli.
Manchester City are the form side entering tonight’s encounter. A sensational unbeaten start to the season sees Mancini’s charges lead the Premier League after seven victories and one draw. The schedule has been relatively kind to City, apart from an away encounter with Spurs, but City have been ruthless in climbing to the top of the table. The Manchester side have scored the most goals (27) and conceded the joint least (six) in the opening eight matches.
Villarreal, conversely, have struggled so far this season and sit in 14th place in La Liga. The Spanish side have only won one and drawn four of their opening seven matches. Villarreal are also on a run of four matches without a victory in all competitions.
City’s attacking prowess should cause Villarreal a host of problems. Sergio Aguero is still nursing a groin injury but comes back into the squad. The Argentine may not be rushed back into action before the eagerly awaited Manchester derby at the weekend, however.
If Aguero does not play, City may have to consider a change of formation as Carlos Tevez is out in the cold and Mario Balotelli is suspended. Balotelli could be a big loss as the in-form striker has scored in three consecutive league matches.
David Silva or Samir Nasri could play in an advanced position alongside Edin Dzeko. City rested their star playmakers at the weekend and the pair should return to the starting line-up.
Villarreal will be missing Brazilian striker Nilmar, who had surgery on his right knee. Mateo Musacchio will also miss out with a thigh strain. Meanwhile, Marco Ruben has a broken toe and Villarreal will aso be missing Angel Lopez, Javier Camunas and Marcos Senna.
Man City Squad: Hart, Pantilimon, Richards, Kompany, Zabaleta, Lescott, Kolarov, Savic, Clichy, K Toure, , De Jong, Y Toure, Milner, Johnson, Barry, Silva, Nasri, Dzeko, Aguero.