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The glamour matchup

30 September 2010

When City and Juventus were drawn into the same Europa League group, all City fans were looking forward to the Italian giants’ visit to Eastlands. It’s the sort of opponent City fans were hoping to face this season in Europe, though the hope was it would be in the Champions League instead of the consolation prize that is the Europa League.

While City’s star is rising, The Old Lady has entered into a period of decline following their return to Serie A after their banishment to Serie B after the matchfixing scandal in Italy. Juve finished seventh last season with a negative goal difference, and currently sit ninth in the table after a lackluster start to the season.

There have been links between the two clubs in recent years, with Gianluigi Buffon once a reported transfer target for City, Miloš Krasić a definitely transfer target this past summer before ultimately heading to Torino, and Emmanuel Adebayor speculating about a future move there after finding playing time hard to come by at City.

The two clubs were supposed to be duking it out for the top spot in the group, but while City were going to Salzburg and notching an easy win, Juventus were surrendering a late lead at home against Lech Poznań to drop points in shock fashion. City look like overwhelming favorites to win the group now, but the Italian club could change that with a result tonight at Eastlands.

Krasić is one bright spot for the visitors, coming off a hat trick against Cagliari over the weekend. Roberto Mancini admitted he twice tried to sign the Serbian right winger, presumably this past summer as a replacement for Shaun Wright-Phillips in the squad.

While City’s defense has looked pretty much airtight so far this season, Juve have conceded two or more goals in four of their last five outings, causing manager Luigi Delneri to express concern about his team’s generosity. This is good news for a City attack that has struggled to light up the scoreboard since the 3-0 win over Liverpool, scoring nine goals in the seven matches since.

The good news for Mancini is that the injury plague appears to be receding at the club, with Wright-Phillips and Micah Richards available after injuries last week. With City not playing until Sunday this week, Mancini alluded to making “two or three” changes to the starting XI from the Chelsea match. Here’s what I expect his team sheet to look like tonight:

While Krasić could prove to be a handful for whoever Mancini starts at left back — presumably Pablo Zabaleta — I’m looking for another strong defensive performance and hopefully some goals against the leaky Juve defense. A comfortable 2-0 win would be great, though a victory of any kind would put City firmly in the driver’s seat as far as winning the group. I’ll be watching at home on DirecTV’s stellar Europa League package.

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