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Important match opens group play for City

16 September 2010

We'll get our first look at the freshly shorn Carlos Tévez when City take the pitch in Salzburg.

I woke up this morning thinking about City’s Europa League group stage opener at Red Bull Salzburg. I’m excited for the opportunity to win a trophy that, while taking a clear back seat to the UEFA Champions League, still is one of the top honors in world football.

Unfortunately, my enthusiasm for City has been seriously dampened by the two successive poor results on either side of the international break. The rash of injuries to Roberto Mancini’s strike force also has me a little worried, after word came out of the City camp that Emmanuel Adebayor would be unavailable again, joining Mario Balotelli and Roque Santa Cruz.

This means a role for Jô, hopefully on the subs bench. I’d feel much better about Jô featuring in this one if his would-be winner had found the back of the net instead of the lunging Christopher Samba on Saturday and given the Brazilian a needed confidence boost. But Mancini is high on him, so I’m willing to defer to the guy who has seen him in training every day.

It’s always important to get off on the right foot, and this match is important for City’s chances of advancing. Salzburg look likely to be the third-best side in the group, so coming away with three points would make them very likely to advance. (Winning the group is key, so the two Juventus matches will be most important, but this one isn’t far behind.)

Much of the talk in the run-up to this one has centered around David Silva — specifically the Spaniard’s adjustment to the Premier League. The continental game could prove to be a good way for him to find his legs at City, and he’s expected to start tonight.

Pablo Zabaleta and Joleon Lescott have done a decent job filling in at left back since Aleksandar Kolarov’s injury, but I’m hoping Wayne Bridge makes his season debut today, as he gives much more going forward.

Here’s the way I expect City to lineup tonight:

In terms of a result, I’m expecting a win despite City’s form. I don’t expect it to come easily, but I think three points from a 1-0 or 2-1 victory is a reasonable expectation, given the gulf in class between the two sides.

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