Europa League preview: Manchester City v Red Bull Salzburg

City will be looking for their first goals in 3 games at Eastlands when they welcome the Austrian champions tonight. Victory for Roberto Mancini’s side will seal our passage to the knockout stages if Juventus fail to win away to Lech Poznan.

This would be the perfect outcome, otherwise we would be going to Turin needing a result. That could prove tricky and would require a full strength side during a hectic period in the Premier League – a scenario Mancini would like to avoid.

Definitely missing from tonight’s side are Wayne Bridge and Yaya Toure. The manager has already stated that he has one eye on a tricky home game against Bolton on Saturday.

Roberto Mancini:

“There will be changes, playing two games inside three days is difficult and we can’t play a lot of the same players in both games.

“Teams that come to Eastlands come to put all their players behind the ball, and that’s difficult for us sometimes, but I think we can deal with that and score a lot of goals at home.”

City have the squad to be able to rotate, but the concern is the motivation levels of the replacements. Adebayor has acknowledged that his future lies elsewhere and a few others may be feeling the same. Maybe they’ll see games like this as a chance to put themselves in the shop window, or will give their all out of professional duty. If we were to go behind or get frustrated for any length of time, then the commitment to turn things round could become a concern.

The crowd for the Poznan game was bolstered by the remarkable number of Polish fans. Quite how many people will turn up tonight in sub zero conditions for a game that is live on television is a concern. The club have played their part in reducing ticket prices to £5 for adults and £1 for juniors.

With Kompany not fully fit, Lescott and Boyata could resume in the centre of defence. Zabaleta is likely to get a game in one of the full-back positions. If Boateng is going to be fit for Saturday, then Richards may continue at right-back.

If Vieira plays in midfield, it’s to be hoped that the energy of de Jong is also in there for the start of the game at least. Adam Johnson will hope for a start and it will be interesting to see if Balotelli gets a further opportunity to improve his sharpness.

If Adebayor is absent then the Italian may get the oportunity to play as a central striker. Jo will also be hoping for a recall.

David Silva:

“The pace of the game is a lot quicker in the Premier League, European games are more strategic, almost like games of chess. There’s a lot more emphasis on tactics, certainly from the teams we have played against.”

Let’s be honest, tonight is for diehards, though these games can often be the most entertaining. The game at home to Poznan wasn’t hugely anticipated by City fans, but proved to be good value with an Adebayor hat-trick and the now legendary antics of the Poznan fans.

The Austrians have proved to be the weakest team in the group scoring a single goal in four games so far. City put in a professional performance with a 2-0 victory in Salzburg and Mancini will be hoping for similar tonight.

Blue Days line-up (4-2-3-1):

Richards – Boyata – Lescott – Zabaleta
de Jong – Vieira
Johnson – Milner – Balotelli

Prediction: 3-0 to City.

Verdict: Stoke City 1 Manchester City 1
Europa League player ratings: Manchester City v Red Bull Salzburg

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