Copy of 2023-02-21T120334Z_776215843_UP1EJ2L0XHW0O_RTRMADP_3_SOCCER-CHAMPIONS-RBL-MCI-PREVIEW-1676989791250
Manchester City's Erling Haaland during training at the Etihad Campus, Manchester, Britain. Image Credit: Action Images via Reuters

Dubai: Manchester City begin their Champions League knockout campaign with a tricky last 16 first leg tie against RB Leipzig in Germany on Wednesday.

Pep Guardiola’s side lost their last visit at the Red Bull Arena 2-1 in the group stage of last season’s competition and will be seeking revenge but Marco Rose’s team are no pushovers.

They won their last match 3-0 against Wolfsburg to rise to fifth in the Bundesliga which keeps them in the title hunt.

They are just five points off top spot with 13 games remaining but now shift their focus to Europe’s elite club competition and will fancy their chances against inconsistent City who beat league leaders Arsenal 3-1 but then followed that up with a disappointing 1-1 draw against lowly Nottingham Forest.

Guardiola is desperate to win the Champions League and has said his time as coach of City will not be complete if he fails to achieve this. This is the tenth successive year that the club is competing in the knockout rounds but they will need to be at their best to advance from the last 16 for the sixth consecutive season.

Nkunku returns

They will be boosted by the fact that Leipzig will be without Peter Gulacsi, Dani Olmo and Abdou Diallo due to injury, however the Germans will have Christopher Nkunku and Konrad Laimer back.

John Stones remains out of contention for City but he is Guardiola’s only absentee. However, the Spanish coach could make some changes to his side what with the likes of Nathan Ake, Manuel Akanji and Rico Lewis all hoping to force their way back in.

Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan should keep their places in midfield but Riyad Mahrez could be recalled to the attack with either Phil Foden or Jack Grealish stepping down. Erling Haaland has scored six goals in four previous games against Leipzig and should lead the line.

City will need to replicate the performance they put in against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium if they are to put one foot into the quarterfinals. But, they have struggled on the road this season and Leipzig will be a tough nut to crack. This will be a challenging encounter but if City’s key men step up, then they ought to take the advantage back to the Etihad Stadium next month for the second leg.