Group A Position: 2nd
It’s clear that Manchester City are out to prove that money can buy you instant success, and on today will look to stamp their mark on the continental scene, albeit in Europe’s second tier club competition, with an authoritative display against Polish side Lech Poznan at Eastlands. Few would back against them securing the win they need to put themselves in a more comfortable position in the table at the midway stage of proceedings, after the team secured their fourth league win in a row at the weekend following an enthralling 3-2 victory away to Blackpool, coupled with impressive performances against Newcastle United (2-1) and Chelsea (1-0).
A positive response following the 1-1 draw at home to Juventus last time out is what Roberto Mancini is looking for from his players, while there could even be the opportunity for some of the club’s fringe players to make an impression on the tough-talking Italian as we’re anticipating changes from Mancini. Among those who could be rested is star striker Carlos Tevez, who scored twice at the weekend and currently leads the scoring charts in the Premier League with seven goals. The Argentine has been the focal point in what has so far been a promising start to the season back home domestically, with City currently the closest challengers to Chelsea’s crown and sit just two points adrift of the Blues. However, Tevez may be forced to play some part in proceedings should Brazilian striker Jo not prove his fitness in time.
Whatever Mancini decides to do, a strong Manchester City team will take to the field at Eastlands regardless aiming to protect their unbeaten status in Europe this season, winning three of their opening four matches in the competition (Two were in the play-offs, the other away in Salzburg 2-0). Emmanuel Adebayor has come in for heavy criticism this season but is expected to lead the line on today, with Mario Balotelli, Kolou Toure and Alexsander Kolarov the only definite absentee’s.
Despite looking the stronger outfit on paper, but a comfortable margin as well, Mancini must guard against complacency and arrogance from his players, as there was certainly a degree of underestimation in the lead-up to City’s last Europa League clash at home to Juventus, where City had to come from behind in order to avoid defeat on home soil. Their opponents stunned Juventus by drawing 3-3 in Turin first time out so they merit the utmost respect, but a professional display from City should be enough to ensure they claim the three points they need to top the group and thus put them within one more victory of assured progression into the next round.
Group A Position: 1st
Underdogs won’t come much bigger than Polish champions Lech Poznan, winners of their sixth Ekstraklasa championship last season and so nearly the first team in Europe this season to claim the scalp of Italian giants Juventus following their 3-3 draw in Turin on Match Day 1. In fact, Lech took a 2-0 lead in that game, and instead of drowning on the their sorrows when throwing away their two goal advantage, they bounced back in style next time out to record a 2-0 win over FC Salzburg in Poland. As a result, the only Polish representative in Europe this season currently reside in top-spot in Group A above their Match Day 3 rivals Manchester City.
Because of their impressive and overachieving start to their European campaign, having registered more points than expected following Group A meetings with Juventus and Salzburg, Lech Poznan players will sleep easy the night before in the knowledge that defeat in England would be a catastrophe, while they can even afford to rest on their laurels and boldly attempt to defend their way to a share of the spoils. There will be absolutely no pressure on Jacek Zielinski’s men to get anything from this game, with many merely expecting them to roll over and accept a spanking from Europe’s newest wannabes, but that’s what makes them dangerous; there’s nothing to lose for the visitors, only a lot to gain.
However, a spanking is just what they will get if they replicate their league form on today night. Despite clinching the Polish league title last season, Lech Poznan currently find themselves languishing down in 14th position, third from bottom, following a disastrous start to the season which has seen them register just two wins in their opening eight matches. They’re also enduring a miserable run of three successive defeats in the league, four in all competitions, and the chances of them turning the form book completely on its head now look slimmer than ever, with the confidence in camp naturally going to be very low. It could be a case of adrenaline and that only getting them through today night’s daunting encounter.
One player to keep an eye out for is Latvian striker Artoms Rudnevs. While the 22 year-old may have managed just one goal in his opening eight league games this season, Rudnevs stunned the Juventus crowd in Turin on Match Day 1 by scoring a hat-trick, his first goals for the club incidentally.
Match Prediction: Manchester City to WIN – 1.04 NaijaBet
If we were to ignore Lech’s domestic results and concentrate solely on their form in this competition then a difficult night might have been in-store for Roberto Mancini’s and his mega-earners, but their form back home is so dire, against mediocre opposition, that to suggest they can be a match for the might of Man City, who are currently unstoppable in the Premier League and boasting a wealth of talent within their ranks would be ludicrous.
The Polish side may well give as good as they get defensively, perhaps attempting to defend like soldiers in a bid to keep the score at 0-0 for as long as possible, but it should be a formality that City find the breakthrough at some point and once they do it could rain goals in Manchester.
Emmanuel Adebayor could be the player to keep on the right side of on today. While the Togo international hasn’t been in scoring form this season, or any sort of form for that matter, and does appear a want-away striker at present, he will be out to prove a point that he is a valuable asset to the club and that when presented with an opportunity, he can stick them away with aplomb. He could be the main man up front should Carlos Tevez receive a welcomed and deserved rest.