While City and United fans wouldn’t like to agree on many things – Oasis or Stone Roses, the status of Curly Watts as a Coronation Street legend, Carlos Tevez’s legacy – there is one thing both sets of supporters would welcome on Tuesday night, and that’s three points in Europe.
Manchester City welcome last year’s finalists Juventus to the Etihad Stadium, while Manchester United travel to Memphis Depay’s old stomping ground to take on PSV Eindhoven.
To say Man City have started the season like a house on fire would be an understatement. They’ve won all five games, scored eleven, conceded none and have opened up an 11 point gap above reigning champions Chelsea. The house isn’t just on fire, it’s a blazing inferno spewing molten lava.
But while they have been tighter than a nun’s chuff defensively in the league, City’s European exploits have produced far more high-scoring thrillers. In their 24 Champions League group matches, they’ve kept just four clean sheets and failed to score on just three occasions. That would suggest that both teams to score could be the way to punt at 5/6, a bet that would have clicked in 92 per cent of Man City’s home group matches in the Champions League since 2011.
Juventus haven’t set the world alight this season – picking up just one point from their three games and scoring just twice – but they have enough talent to cause City problems. Paul Pogba (7/2 anytime scorer), Mario Mandzukic (11/4 anytime scorer), and Paulo Dybala (7/2 anytime scorer) are just three players Manual Pellegirni’s side will have to keep close tabs on at the Etihad.
Manchester City are getting comfier in Europe, and after a couple of nervy campaigns that saw them win just three of 12 group games between 2011-2013, they are starting to feel more at home. Their 100 per cent record this year includes wins at home to Chelsea and away to Everton, and while the stats say they will concede, we’re still backing Pellegrini to pick up all three points.
Louis Van Gaal’s Red Army make their return to the Champions League off the back of a 3-1 victory over great rivals Liverpool, so you’d think all is sweet in the red half of Manchester.
However it isn’t all rainbows, lollipops and supermodels riding unicorns. United have struggled going forward in the league, scoring just six goals in five games. Wayne Rooney, who misses the Eindhoven trip hasn’t scored in 10 league games, while Memphis Depay has had 17 shots in the league without scoring – only Alexis Sanchez (28 shots) has had more attempts and not scored. Anthony Martial opened his account against Liverpool, but there’s a whole lot of pressure on that young man’s shoulders. Our old History teacher used to say that ‘pressure made diamonds’. Our old history teacher was also a nob.
Manchester United’s key strength this year would be their defence. The Red Devils have kept three clean sheets in five games and also welcome back David De Gea thanks to a combination of Windows 95 and Ed Woodward’s incompetence. PSV have scored 15 goals in five league games this season – including six in their comprehensive win away to Cambuur on Saturday – however the Champions League is a different beast.
A quick look back at PSV’s last two Champions League campaigns shows us they failed to score in six of their 12 group matches, including half of their home games. Manchester United have also kept clean sheets in 50 per cent of their Champions League group games since 2010, so while we’re not entirely confident of Manchester United finding the onion bag, they can certainly keep PSV out.
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