25 Sep 2020 5:21 PM +00:00

Champions League: FC Basel vs Manchester City - Lineup, Preview and Prediction

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19:45 GMT, Tuesday 13th February, St. Jakob-Park (Basel, Switzerland), BT Sport

Pep Guardiola's Manchester City might have their collective sight set on the treble but, in order to have a chance of tilting at the Champions League trophy this season, they will first have to move past the challenge offered by last season's Swiss Super League champions, FC Basel.

This season, though, has been far from perfect for the club from Basel. Sitting second in their domestic league, Raphael Wicky's team find themselves five points shy of league leaders BSC Young Boys.

Having had a poor run of form at the beginning of the season in the league, Basel had gone unbeaten since a 2-1 loss to St. Gallen in September until two weeks ago when they lost 1-0 to seventh-placed Lugano, putting them out of touching distance from the top of the table.

They'll have their work cut out to beat a Manchester City side that many pundits are pitching as the best team in the world at the moment. Following a 5-1 victory over Leicester City at the weekend, Guardiola's side are now sitting 16 points clear of nearest challengers Manchester United in the Premier League.

Elsewhere, the Manchester-based club flew through the group stages of the Champions League, only losing to Shakhtar Donetsk in what was a dead rubber at the conclusion of the group stages.

Manchester City go into this one as favourites but, as Manchester United and Chelsea fans will know, FC Basel are not to be taken for granted.

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Last Time Out

FC Thun 0-2 FC Basel (Swiss Super League)

In what turned out to be a relatively comfortable game for the Swiss champions, goals just before the halftime whistle and the fulltime whistle proved to be enough to give Basel all three points.

With halftime fast approaching, scourge of Manchester United, Michael Lang whipped in a ball from the right straight onto the head of the curiously-unmarked Dimitri Oberlin who crashed his header into the top corner beyond Tomas Vaclik in the Thun goal.

But with the game running late, as Thun pushed hard for an equaliser, Basel managed to spring a counter-attack, their attackers running a nice interchange before substitute Kevin Bua scored to take the game beyond the home team.

Manchester City 5-1 Leicester City (Premier League)

Although Jamie Vardy managed to pull Leicester City level after Raheem Sterling's opening goal, there was only ever going to be one winner in this fixture.

Coming into the break on level terms, four second-half goals from Sergio Aguero helped the league leaders to a resounding victory and presented his manager with something of a selection headache with the imminent return of Gabriel Jesus, Aguero's striking rival.

Kevin De Bruyne ran the show again, picking up three assists in the process and causing some pundits to wonder whether or not the Belgian might challenge for next year's Ballon d'Or.

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FC Basel Lineup

With only Germano Vailati and Luca Zuffi unavailable, Raphael Wicky will be able to select a strong side. Expect Geoffroy Serey Dié to partner Taulent Xhaka in the midfield area.

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Manchester City Lineup

Manchester City are without long-term injuries Benjamin Mendy and Leroy Sane along with central-midfielder-cum-wing-back Fabian Delph. 

Despite his impressive performances of late, Oleksandr Zinchenko is likely to be replaced by Danilo who has more experience of this competition (not to mention the fullback position).

Key Battle: Michael Lang (FC Basel) vs Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)

For an ostensibly unexciting player, Michael Lang has been remarkably important for FC Basel of late. 

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With eight goals in all competitions going into this fixture, two of which came in the Champions League group stages, he is a remarkably important cog in the FC Basel machinery.

If he can drop into the space behind Raheem Sterling and attack Manchester City's weak link - the left fullback - then his role could be productive as Basel look to cause an upset at St. Jakob-Park.

Raheem Sterling had a rough time of it the weekend before Manchester City's 5-1 drubbing of Leicester City, missing a seemingly-unmissable chance against Burnley in what turned out to be a 1-1 draw.

This fixture could be a chance for Sterling to continue his recovery from the Burnley setback. However, he won't be able to focus on attacking alone: if Michael Lang is in a dangerous mood, he'll be responsible for tracking his runs.

Talking Points

Thinking for the future

Raphael Wicky will have to think carefully about these two fixtures. With the second leg coming away at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, his best chance of pulling off an upset here will be to snatch a 1-0 victory to take with him to England.

This is easier said than done. Basel will have to balance the need to sit back against the need for a goal and so expect them to look to catch Manchester City on the counter-attack.

If City have had a weakness this season, though, it has been their back line in defensive transitions. If Wicky is to get anything out of this one, he will have to prepare his team for long periods of defensive blocks interspersed with rapid counter-attacks. Concentration will be key.

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How to save a team

Guardiola will be aware that his fixture is potentially the easiest fixture out of any Round of 16 game. As a result, he will want his team to run to an early lead so that he can rest his players for other competitions.

That said, FC Basel should not be underestimated, having caused a few problems for English teams across the last few years of Champions League competition.

If they can run up a comfortable lead, Guardiola could bring off his more important players to give them plenty of recouperation time before their FA Cup fixture next Monday against Wigan Athletic.

Prediction: Basel 0-2 Manchester City

It is hard to see Basel pulling off an upset here. Guardiola can afford to play a strong team and, with their next fixture an FA Cup match against Wigan, they will be sure to make certain of a win here.

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