x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Problems up front for Manchester City

Edin Dzeko is in better form than the temperamental Mario Balotelli, but the Bosnian has just been used as a super sub so far this season.

As Manchester City manager, Roberto Mancini has enjoyed more success in the Premier League than in Europe. Robin van Lonkhuijsen / Reuters
As Manchester City manager, Roberto Mancini has enjoyed more success in the Premier League than in Europe. Robin van Lonkhuijsen / Reuters

Manchester City's struggle to transfer their English Premier League form to the Champions League will come into focus again tomorrow when they face Ajax in Amsterdam knowing defeat would leave them in a precarious position.

After going out in the group stage last season, City have failed to light the touch paper in this year's competition and occupy third place in Group D with a solitary point from their opening two games.

Roberto Mancini, the manager, could point to the fact his team have already faced the champions of Spain and Germany in the toughest of the eight groups.

But there will be no excuses if his side come home empty-handed from the encounter with Ajax who are bottom having lost their first two matches.

City have underwhelmed in Europe's elite competition. Since making their Champions League debut last season they have lost three of their four away games and went down 3-2 to Real Madrid last month in their first road trip of this campaign.

Mancini's principal headache will be deciding who to play up front after Edin Dzeko, who has been used mostly as an impact substitute this season, came off the bench on Saturday to rescue his team with two goals in a 2-1 victory over West Bromwich Albion.

The Bosnian could feel aggrieved to be kicking his heels on the sidelines with question marks still hanging over the temperamental Italian Mario Balotelli.

Despite only starting twice in the Premier League and once in Europe, Dzeko already has six goals this season compared to Balotelli's one.

"Edin's been in superb form, not just in terms of goal scoring but at the end of last season and at the start of this season, coming off the bench or starting, he's been excellent," the assistant manager David Platt told City's website (www.mcfc.co.uk).

"People should be disappointed when they're left out but the reaction that you want is that if they come on they fight."

City's influential playmaker David Silva did not travel to Amsterdam as he continues to nurse the hamstring injury sustained on international duty with Spain last week.

The midfielders Jack Rodwell (hamstring) and Javi Garcia (thigh), and the defender Maicon (foot) also failed to make the trip.

Frank De Boer, the Ajax manager, recognises the importance of the clash with City after his team kicked off their Champions League campaign with a 4-1 home defeat against Real Madrid.

The 42 year old said: "If you want to stay in Europe after the winter break, whether in the Champions League or Europa League, we need a result tomorrow.

"We believe in it. The Real match was a poor match for us and in the Borussia Dortmund game we were unlucky. Tomorrow is different. Manchester City are a good team but we have a good team as well and we have faith in a good result."

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