Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Match Preview: Manchester City vs Viktoria Plzeň

City face Czech champions in final home European group tie

By Aaron Leggott

As the football season hits December, many fans across Europe start to prepare for an exhilarating month of football as the Champions League group stage reaches its climax. 

However, those connected with Manchester City will, in some ways, be glad to be able to focus on other competitions after qualification to the knockout stages was secured against CSKA Moscow earlier this month.

Of course, Manuel Pellegrini would prefer to see his side top Group D and receive a potentially easier route into the quarter finals, but the Chilean will acknowledge that any possibility of that happening will only occur if Pep Guardiola's side have a major slip up - which doesn't look likely on current form.

Photo: Official MCFC Facebook

City's opponents for their penultimate fixture appear in the form of Czech champions Viktoria Plzeň - the team yet to register a point in the Champions League this season.

It will be Pavel Vrba's final away game in the competition, as the Plzeň coach agreed to take on the Czech Republic job during the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.

However, with CSKA only three points ahead of Vrba's side, they will be looking towards achieving Europa League qualification by clinching third spot in the group.

Vrba will acknowledge that any hopes of gaining points may not be achieved at the Etihad Stadium, where City have been nothing short of superb in front of their own fans. With just nine games played, an incredible 37 goals have been scored and eight wins recorded in the process, with the only blip being the 3-1 defeat at the hands of Bayern Munich - not something to be ashamed of. 

The biggest news coming out City's camp is that Joe Hart will regain his place in the Blues' goal after a stint on the sidelines. After being replaced by Romanian Costel Pantilimon for City's previous five games, England's number one will return and aim to make that goalkeeper's jersey his own once again.

My thoughts

I expect Manuel Pellegrini to make a number of changes for the visit of Viktoria Plzeň on Wednesday night. It wouldn't surprise me to see Sergio Agüero given a rest, whilst Yaya Touré and Samir Nasri could also be in contention for a place on the bench ahead of Sunday's game against Swansea City.

Of course top spot would be ideal but if Bayern beat CSKA, it would take a win by three or more goals at the Allianz Arena to finish ahead of the German champions - something which I can't see happening.

The game is therefore essentially a dead rubber, but City should comfortably beat Plzeň. Despite an edgy 45 minutes in the Czech Republic in our first game, we went on to win 3-0 in emphatic fashion - and judging by our away form this season - that was a brilliant result! Expect a few more goals after last weekend's demolition of Tottenham Hotspur to boost our goal difference.

Prediction: City 4 - 0 Plzeň

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(c) The Sky Blue View 2013

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