Manchester City’s Champions League hopes rest on a knife edge as they welcome Dutch champions Ajax on Tuesday. Roberto Mancini’s side suffered a shock 3-1 defeat to the same opponents in Amsterdam two weeks ago to leave them on just one point after three matches in Group D.
Even wins from their remaining three matches may well not be enough now to seem City through to the competition’s knockout phase for the first time. Since that defeat to Ajax, all has not seemed well at the Etihad, with speculation swirling about Mancini’s future and unrest in the dressing room.
A goalless draw against West Ham on Saturday will have done little to boost the atmosphere around the squad. Mancini has also been struck by a mounting injury list. Joleon Lescott and James Milner are the latest casualties, joining David Silva, Micah Richards, Maicon and Jack Rodwell on the sidelines.
The Italian has cited injuries as well as a lack of experience in Europe’s premier competition as key reasons for his side’s faltering form.
“I said after the West Ham game that if we say we are ready to win the Champions League that is not true—we need to improve,” he said, according to Uefa.com. “There are other teams that have played in this competition every year. We need to improve our team.
“We have the same team as last year, but the problem that we have had in the first two or three months is that we had seven or eight players injured.”
While all the focus was on City’s failings after the result in the Amsterdam Arena, Ajax may now feel that they are back in the hunt to finish in the group’s top two.
That still remains an outside chance for Frank e Boer’s young side and finishing above City and gaining a spot in the Europa League is a more realistic ambition.
Ajax did not warm up for the return clash with City in ideal fashion as they suffered a 2-0 home defeat to Vitesse Arnhem on Saturday. The result leaves Ajax in fifth place in the Eredivisie, 10 points off leaders Twente Enschede.
Manchester City (probable)
D: Zabaleta, Nastasic, Kompany, Clichy
M: Nasri, Toure, Barry, Kolarov
F: Tevez, Aguero
D: Van Rhijn, Moisander, Alderweireld, Blind
M: De Jong, Poulsen, Schone
F: Sana, Eriksen, Babel
Prediction: Manchester City looked in control of the first meeting with Ajax before taking their feet firmly off the gas. Despite their unconvincing form, they are unlikely to make the same mistake again and should get a much-needed victory.
Manchester City 2-0 Ajax
Where to watch: The Champions League Group D clash kicks-off at 2.45 p.m. Coverage will be provided by the Fox Soccer Channel, with a live stream available on FoxSoccer2Go.