*In legendary boxing announcer Micheal Buffer's voice*
In the powder blue corner, the challenger for progression to the Champions League elimination rounds: The Citizens! Manchester City FC! Winners of England's Premiere title in '37 and '68, and FA Cup winner in 2010.
And, in the red corner, die Roten! (And the crowd goes wild!) The Rekordmeisters of Deutschland! Winners of 22 Bundesliga titles, 15 Pokal titles, one Europa League title and four Champions League titles: FC Baaaaaayerrrrnnnn Muuuuuuuenchen!
*Cue "Champions League Anthem"*!
Last weekend, the Citizens dismantled a hapless Norwich side 5-1, with goals scored by Aguero, Nasri, Yaya Toure, Balotelli and Johnson. The win saw them move a dominant five points clear at the top of the Premier League table. Before that, City had a nervy victory against Arsenal in the Carling Cup, a loss to Napoli in the Champions League and a win against Newcastle United, 3-1.
Roberto Mancini has a full squad to pick from - no one is sick or injured - so expect to see a brutal starting XI comprised of: Hart - Richards, K. Toure, Kompany, Clichy - Y. Toure, Barry - Silva, Nasri, Johnson - Aguero.
On the other side of the pitch, over the weekend a ho-hum Bayern Munich side defeated Werder Bremen, who looked inexplicably unprepared for the match. Braces by the Traumduo, Ribery and Robben, saw Bayern go back on top of the Bundesliga after the Borussia derby ended in a 1-1 draw. Prior to that, the Reds lost two consecutive Bundesliga matches; against Mainz, 3-2, and Borussia Dortmund at home, 0-1. And won against Villarreal 3-1 to seal top spot in the Champions League Group of Death.
A curious thing has been happening in Munich of late: Players are dropping like flies. Neither Robben nor Kroos made the flight to England, as both are out with the flu. And, of course we are still sorely missing Schweinsteiger with a broken collarbone. We can, at least, thank our lucky four stars that Tymo is allowed to start this match, as he has been serving a suspension in the Bundesliga. The horrific Alaba / Gustavo experiment at DM does thankfully not apply here.
It seems Jupp Heynckes has decided, with Kroos and Robben out, to field a "B" squad after all; giving some starting players desperately needed rest. (Anyone else psyched that it's almost Christmas break?) City fans, you are getting what you wished for. Now what are you going to do with it?
As far as I've been able to piece together, Munich's starting XI will be: Neuer - Rafinha, Boateng, Badstuber, Contento - Gustavo, Tymoshchuk - Mueller, Alaba, Olic - Gomez. However, if we are getting bossed, you can expect to see van Buyten, Ribery and Lahm in the second half.
Alaba in the playmaker's slot is interesting to me as the only thing he did right in his time at DM was lay-on a very pretty ball for Ribery's first goal this past Saturday. Playing Thomas Mueller on the opposite side might shake a goal out of him. He has been playing well, off the ball, but strangely has not been able to finish. And, Ivica Olic will be playing for a job elsewhere as he's decided to leave Bayern, if not in the winter transfer window then definitely at the end of the season.
I always thought, that if we could field a full squad, we could travel to the Eastlands and win. I'm not so sure what to think now. Perhaps it will come down to what's going on in the Napoli - Villarreal match. If Napoli goes up a couple goals early, it would certainly deflate a City side that needs points from the Spaniards to progress.
Or, perhaps it will come down to the indomitable will of Bayern Munich: Something special seems to happen when we play English sides. (City would do well to remember what Bayern did to Manchester United at Old Trafford.) Plus, the chance of an 800,000 Euro payday. And a shot at leaping over Chelsea to take the 3rd spot in UEFA co-efficients.
The English - German aggression always makes for highly entertaining football. And banter. And finally, on that note... While I think it's hilarious to be insulted over the internet, some others do not. In this case, I am specifically referring to my "I laugh at your Group of Death" entry. So, I'm asking you to play nice-ish, boys and girls. Be snarky, be funny, argue your point to the death. But, please do not make me have to start editing / approving comments. I like to just let them flow.
In the words of Michael Buffer: Let's get ready to rumble!
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