When Manchester City hosts Red Star Belgrade on Tuesday, it will be their first Champions League match as the current champions.
After defeating Inter Milan 1-0 in Istanbul in June, Pep Guardiola’s team is the reigning champion after a historic treble-winning season. More than ever, every other team wants to take them out.
According to the stats, City has a solid chance to start their season on a winning note when they play Red Star Belgrade at home, the Serbian champions from the previous season. Additionally, when the schedule tightens, it can give Guardiola an opportunity to rest some of his players.
The City manager does not have the luxury of a deep enough roster to make significant changes, and injuries will not help. However, there is an opportunity for rotation and a few unproven players who might benefit from establishing a point.
Guardiola acknowledged last week that he had discussed a summer transfer with Kalvin Phillips. Rodri is constantly present, so the former Leeds midfielder isn’t getting much of a chance right now.
However, he showed everyone how excellent he can be by playing the entire 90 minutes for England against Scotland during the break in international play. The 27-year-old was at ease and in charge at Hampden Park, and he will want to re-create that quality in the City’s sky blue.
Sergio Gomez has also failed to overtake those in front of him. The Spaniard’s minutes have been impacted by Guardiola’s propensity to keep things solid with at least three central defenders across the back four, especially with Kyle Walker occupying the final slot after a stellar run of form on the right.
Matheus Nunes, a player who only joined City on deadline day, has yet to receive any sort of opportunity. In the 23 minutes he played off the bench during Saturday’s 3-1 victory at West Ham, he made an impression. He may get the chance to make his debut in the Champions League match on Tuesday in front of the Etihad fans.
Red Star Belgrade won’t be a walkover, therefore it’s crucial to avoid seeing it as such. Guardiola will continue to demand that City field a great team, and nothing less than the best will do.
However, the necessity for relaxation cannot be overlooked when the number of midweek games starts to mount. On Tuesday, a few unimportant players may have the chance to make a statement; they must seize it.