x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

A defeat to Manchester City will sink Yellow Submarine

Manchester City needs a win in the Champions League to give their campaign hope, but they face a Villarreal side hit by injuries and in need of a a win to not be eliminated.

Sergio Aguero, right, saved Manchester City in stoppage with a goal to lift them to victory over Villarreal two weeks ago.
Sergio Aguero, right, saved Manchester City in stoppage with a goal to lift them to victory over Villarreal two weeks ago.

This season's Champions League has not gone to plan for Manchester City and Villarreal. The pair, who meet Wednesday night at El Madrigal, knew that Group A would be the toughest of the eight groups when they were joined by Bayern Munich and Napoli.

All the same, Villarreal did not expect to have zero points after three games and City would have hoped for more than four points and a solitary win, having already played two of their home games.

And that victory was thanks to a 93rd-minute winner from Sergio Aguero against Villarreal in Manchester two weeks ago.

Villarreal, who felt that they deserved a draw against the Premier League leaders, are feeling vengeful for tonight's vital game for both teams - the Spaniards will be eliminated if they do not win.

The Yellow Submarine were Champions League semi-finalists in 2006, but their European endeavours mirror their poor league form which sees them placed a lowly 13th in the Primera Liga with just two wins from their opening 10 matches.

One of those wins was at the weekend against Rayo Vallecano in a game attended by just 13,000 unconvinced fans, a drop of 50 per cent on their average attendance.

The team, which finished fourth in Spain last season, has struggled to get over the sale of Santi Cazorla, their influential Spanish international winger, to Malaga for €19 million (Dh96.9m).

Last week's news that Giuseppe Rossi, their star striker, had ruptured his cruciate ligament and can be expected to miss the next six months was like a man being kicked while he was down.

Rossi's absence adds to a list which sees Nilmar, the Brazilian striker, sidelined with a knee injury, while Angel, the key right-back, has been out since January.

Christian Zapata, the Colombian defender, who signed in the summer from Udinese, will also be missing for five weeks.

Saturday's win came at the price of three fresh injuries - to the midfielder Cani, the winger Camunas and the forward Marco Ruben.

Add to those losses the injury of their most experienced player, Marcos Senna, and you can see why Villarreal feel the world is against them.

Juan Carlos Garrido, the coach, has talked down the predictions of doom, but he looks under more pressure to get results than at any time since taking control two years ago.

He enjoys the public support of Fernando Roig, the club president, for the moment, but there were whistles against him from the sparsely populated stands during Saturday's win, which he defiantly shrugged off by saying: "It doesn't matter. One must be strong and overcome such obstacles."

Despite being part of a Villarreal defence that has conceded 12 more goals than at the same stage last season, Mateo Musacchio, the Argentine, said: "Even with the injuries, we have a lot of confidence and will change our situation in the Champions League."

City cannot take anything for granted, either.

They have not won any of their three previous games on Spanish soil - although two of those were in 1969/70 and 1972/73 - and they have lost two and drawn three of their last five European games.

Villarreal are unbeaten at home in six games to English opponents while City have also failed to score in 283 minutes away from home in Europe.

If they cannot overcome the Spanish side tonight, in what is their first season in Europe's top competition since 1968/69, the knockout stages could be beyond them with a tough trip to Napoli to follow before Bayern Munich at home.

The Italian side- a point ahead of City - face leaders Bayern in Munich in tonight's game.

sports@thenational.ae


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