Manchester City will begin yet another attempt of winning their maiden UEFA Champions League title as the 2022/23 campaign kicks off with a Group G visit to Sevilla at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan in Spain. The Citizens suffered a heart-breaking semi-final exit at the hands of Real Madrid last season in a tie they actually should’ve won while Sevilla crashed out of the group stages before being knocked out of the Europa League as well.
Ahead of the 2021/22 season, Sevilla had never failed to progress beyond the group stages of the Champions League. Although success in the knockout rounds was limited and few and far between, it was still considered to be a matter of European prestige for one of the biggest teams in Spain.
However, last season, Julen Lopetegui’s side managed to finish third in their group behind Lille and Red Bull Salzburg and as a result, were demoted to the Europa League instead.
While Sevilla have built themselves a reputation of being Europa League giants with multiple successes in Europe’s second biggest continental club competition, it counted for nothing as they ended up losing to another English side West Ham United in the last 16 round.
However, finishing fourth in the domestic league last season, the Nervionenses have earned another opportunity of making a dent in the coveted Champions League. Drawn in Group G, Sevilla will also face stiff competition from Borussia Dortmund and FC Copenhagen besides the fact that Manchester City are the favourites to emerge as group winners.
Over the summer, financial issues forced them to part ways with their starting centre-back partnership of Diego Carlos and Jules Kounde. It has had a profound and adverse effect on the Seville-based side this season as they seem to be struggling La Liga in the early stages of the season. They have taken just one point from their first four league fixtures to record the worst start to a domestic league season in 41 years and Lopetegui’s side are currently 17th in the standings.
The pressure is mounting on the head coach to deliver as the fans are getting anxious and impatient. Sporting director Monchi has also had to plead with the supporters and urged them to keep believing in the side because they need time to turn things around after the drastic transfer window that they had.
Visit of Xavi’s high-flying Barcelona certainly didn’t help matters last weekend. Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha, and Eric Garcia all got on the scoresheet for the Catalan club to secure a 3-0 drubbing and the only silver lining from the match was that the scoreline wasn’t worse for Sevilla who are still searching for their first win in the Spanish top flight this season.
The home supporters can take some comfort in the fact that Sevilla are now unbeaten in their last six opening day group stage fixtures in the Champions League. They have drawn each of their last four but another potential point against Manchester City to kick things off might as well be a cause of celebration for the struggling Spanish outfit.
Manchester City, meanwhile, haven’t exactly begun the season in full tilt. After playing six matches, they have four wins and two draws to their name. City had to come from behind to secure a 3-3 draw with Newcastle United in a match that they could’ve just as easily lost. However, in an unexpected fashion, they also drew 1-1 with Aston Villa last weekend.
To their credit, Pep Guardiola’s side are second in the 2022/23 Premier League standings with table-toppers Arsenal just one point ahead following their latest failure against Manchester United. No team has scored as many goals as Manchester City (20) after the first six rounds of league matches.
Star summer signing Erling Haaland has been in mouth-watering form in front of goal and has been a critical contributor to City’s goal tally. At the Villa Park last weekend, the hulking Norwegian striker scored at the 50th-minute mark to make it 10 Premier League goals for him already so far this season.
Haaland was on hand to meet midfield talisman Kevin De Bruyne’s familiar back post cross and all he had to do was tap it home from close range to give City the lead in the contest. However, the home side pulled one back as Leon Bailey’s thunderbolt strike restored parity in the scoreline. Steven Gerrard’s side were also denied the opportunity of going ahead when Phillipe Coutinho’s rifled shot was incorrectly ruled out for offside.
Thanks to Arsenal’s 3-1 failure at Old Trafford against Manchester City, City fans are hopeful that their side can reclaim the top spot quite early in the season and issue a statement out to the rest of the league once again. Guardiola’s side have won both of the last Premier League seasons and will be bidding to make it three in a row to firmly establish their position as one of the greatest sides in the modern Premier League era.
Success in the Champions League, however, has continued to haunt Manchester City who are still searching for their maiden title. They have nobody but themselves to blame for last season’s wasted efforts. City had the tie against Real Madrid in the bag before suffering a shocking and cataclysmic upset in the final few minutes of the tie in Madrid.
The brilliance of Karim Benzema, the electric pace of Vinicius Jr and the surprise of super sub Rodrygo Jr was too much for Guardiola’s side to deal with and they stuttered to a 6-5 aggregate loss in the semi-finals.
With that being said, Manchester City are comfortably the favourites to win against Sevilla. The only time these two sides have met in the Champions League before was in the 2015-16 group stages where City ran out comfortable 5-2 winners on aggregate. If the already struggling Sevilla side didn’t have enough reasons to be wary of Haaland, Lopetegui will be reminding them of the fact that he had grabbed four goals in two games for Borussia Dortmund against them in 2020-21.
SEV vs MCI, UEFA Champions League 2022/23
Date: 7th September, 2022
Time: 12:30 AM IST
Venue: Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, Seville
Sevilla form (all competitions):
Manchester City form (all competitions):
Sevilla wins: 0
Manchester City wins: 2
Sevilla Team News:
To make matters worse after the departures of Diego Carlos and Jules Kounde, Sevilla have been hampered in their efforts to shore up the defence after Marcao and Karim Rekik suffered injuries. New summer arrival Marcao is still struggling with a hamstring tear and will be out for a few more weeks.
Jesus Corona has also been sidelined until the end of the year with a fibula fracture, while former Manchester United forward Adnan Januzaj didn’t make it to the squad to face Barcelona following concerns over his fitness. However, both Januzaj and Rekik are expected to be included in the squad for this fixture.
New forward signing Kasper Dolberg saw his first minutes with Sevilla after coming off the bench against Barcelona last weekend. Meanwhile, Lopetegui might consider recalling Thomas Delaney, Papu Gomez, and former Manchester City player Jesus Navas to his squad after disappointment in recent weeks.
Erik Lamela and Fernando also seem to be struggling with a few issues and it remains to be seen whether they are risked from the start.
Manchester City Team News:
As far as Manchester City are concerned, they are still without long-term absentee Aymeric Laporte in defence who is out with a knee injury. Kyle Walker and John Stones are also definitely out of contention – the former came off injured on the 80th minute mark against Aston Villa last weekend. This should lead to new signing Manuel Akanji making his debut in the absence of Stones.
Walker’s injury could lead to Joao Cancelo, who is usually deployed on the left, taking up his usual right-back slot. This could lead to Guardiola pushing central defender Ake to the left flank and asking Akanji to partner Ruben Dias at the heart of the defence. The visitors will also hope to have Kalvin Phillips back in contention after his shoulder issue.
The frontline could see Riyad Mahrez and Jack Grealish partnering the in-form Erling Haaland while Julian Alvarez may come off the bench in the second half to take advantage of tired legs.
Sevilla possible starting lineup:
Bono; Navas, Nianzou, Fernando, Acuna; Jordan, Rakitic, Delaney; Lamela, Gomez; En-Nesyri
Manchester City possible starting lineup:
Ederson; Cancelo, Dias, Akanji, Ake; Gundogan, Rodri, De Bruyne; Mahrez, Haaland, Grealish
With their new-look defence already hampered by injuries and a disastrous start to the league season, Sevilla will face a baptism by fire when they face one of the most prolific attacking sides in Europe at home.
They are expected to be put through the wringer against Manchester City and Guardiola’s side will be looking to recover from the disappointment after dropping points to Aston Villa last weekend. They are the favourites to seal a victory by a comfortable margin in Seville.