Europa League preview: Red Bull Salzburg v Manchester City
City head to Austria for an early 6pm (BST) kick-off against Salzburg in our opening Europa League fixture. With ourselves and Juventus the favourites to go through, Roberto Mancini could be looking for a victory.
Not that Salzburg should be underestimated, having already come through two Champions League qualifiers before dropping out 3-4 to Hapoel Tel Aviv. Last season they won all six Europa League group games defeating the likes of Lazio and Villarreal along the way.
Roberto Mancini is still likely to rotate his squad and part of the interest in the Europa League is seeing how the Italian manages his resources. Along with the injured Balotelli and Kolarov, the flight to Austria was also missing Boateng, Adebayor and Lescott.
Wayne Bridge looks set to start for the first time this season and Jo was partnering Tevez in training apparently. With Roque Santa Cruz not included in the 25 man squad these are only two senior strikers.
Mancini continues to show faith in the Brazilian and let’s hope it is repaid soon. The player needs a couple of goals to win over the critics and boost his own confidence. It will be interesting to see if Jo is the one to sit deeper, or whether Tevez gets to play in the position that utilizes his work-rate and creativity.
Most fans will be even keener to see David Silva get another start. It will be fascinating to see whether he can make an impact and develop an understanding with Tevez and co.
As the home side Salzburg ought to be looking to attack City but whether they want to risk conceding on the counter is debatable. In the opening game of six and against one of the group favourites they may want to keep it tight and not commit men forward.
If they do then Silva should have more space to operate in. If they look to defend in numbers then the Spaniard is likely to be the player charged with unlocking the defence. Either way he should be central to our success or failure.
“I’ve watched a lot of Austrian football and Salzburg move the ball around well, are technically good and have a physical element to their game – it should be a great match and I think that, because of our profile, each time we play in Europe it will be a kind of cup final for the home team.”
This being a European group game, a draw wouldn’t be a bad result for City and away goals don’t matter in the same way as with a two-legged knockout round. Mancini probably realises this and would be less disappointed than the rest of us with a 0-0.
Having said that, he’s still likely to look for the win – just not at any cost. After the disappointment of one point and one goal in our last two matches, victory with a few goals would be a welcome morale booster ahead of the trip to Wigan.
Victory in Lancashire rather than Austria remains the priority and for that reason Dedryck Boyata is likely to be given further match experience. It’s great to see Mancini having such faith in the young Belgian.
With Bridge unlikely to be fully match fit, Greg Cunningham could also make an appearance from the bench. It’s just a shame that Shay Given seems unlikely to be getting some match time.
Blue Days line-up (4-4-2 with diamond midfield):
Zabaleta – Boyata – Kompany – Bridge
Y Toure – Barry
Tevez – Jo
Prediction: 3-0 to City.