Swiss champions Basel have a herculean task on their hands as they look to reach the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals for the first time at the expense of Manchester City.
UEFA Champions League
13/14 February 2018
Last-16, first leg
Kick-off: 03H45 HKT
Venue: St. Jakob-Park
Referee: J. Eriksson
Assistants: M. Klasenius, D. Warnmark
Fourth official: M. Culum
TEAM MATCHES WIN DRAW LOSS
Basel 0 0 0 0
Man City 0 0 0 0
Players to watch
FCB are certainly capable of scoring goals, with six of their players having found the back of the net five times or more this season. Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Dimitri Oberlin are the top scorers with eight apiece, while Michael Lang and Mohammed Elyounoussi each have six.
Van Wolfswinkel will be hoping to get amongst the goals again, having failed to score in his last three games since returning from a foot injury in December.
Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero combined to devastating effect against Leicester on Saturday, with the Belgian assisting three of the Argentine’s four goals at the Etihad Stadium.
Aguero (21) trails Harry Kane (23) by two goals in the race for the Premier League Golden Boot, while De Bruyne has racked up an impressive 14 assists in the top flight.
Team form and manager quotes
The RotBlau qualified for the last-16 as runners-up in Group A behind Manchester United. They have never made it past this stage of the competition – in 2012 and 2014 FCB progressed from the group phase, but they were knocked out by Bayern Munich and FC Porto respectively.
Raphael Wicky’s side should be fresh for the European tie having played just two competitive matches this year since the mid-season break in Switzerland.
After kicking off 2018 with a 1-0 reverse to Lugano, the Swiss giants bounced back to beat Thun 2-0 this past weekend, Wicky admits they need to have a flawless game to stand a chance of causing an upset on Tuesday.
“We always try to prepare a plan, and we have one for tomorrow. Everything has to go perfectly for us in every single aspect. We have to have a perfect evening to create a big surprise,” the former Switzerland international said in his pre-match press conference.
“I don’t think we’ll be surprised by Man City tomorrow. Everyone knows how they play, and they’ll have a lot of possession. They are incredibly quick in transitions.
“We have to be realistic, we’re not going to have 50 or 60% possession. We must be incredibly solid, very compact, very focused in every second of the game. When we have the ball, we have to have the courage to use it.”
Meanwhile, the City juggernaut continues to roll on. After their unbeaten start to the Premier League season was halted by Liverpool last month, Pep Guardiola’s troops have failed to claim maximum points just once in their next six matches across all competitions.
The 5-1 demolition of Leicester on Saturday extended the Citizens’ lead at the top of the table to 16 points with 11 fixtures remaining this term.
Basel beat City’s neighbours United 1-0 on matchday five at St. Jakob-Park, and Guardiola isn’t expecting to walk over the hosts in midweek.
“In the Champions League they play with a back five and put in some great performances in the group stage. They’re strong and well-organised at the back. They’re good on the counterattack,” the Spaniard told the assembled press.
“I’ve already told my players it will be very very difficult, particularly here. But we’re confident and I think we can play well here.”
— Manchester City (@ManCity) February 12, 2018
The only confirmed injury absentee for FCB is veteran goalkeeper Germano Vailati, who has been sidelined since October.
Eder Balanta is rated doubtful with a thigh problem the defender sustained against Thun on Saturday, while midfielder Luca Zuffi could make his comeback from a foot injury that required surgery.
David Silva, Leroy Sane and Fabian Delph all trained this week to give City a welcome boost.
Midfielder Silva sat out the last two games with a knock to his side and winger Sane hasn’t featured since hurting his ankle in the FA Cup win over Cardiff, while Delph has been struggling with a knee issue.
Gabriel Jesus (MCL) and Benjamin Mendy (ACL) remain unavailable, although the duo are making good progress.