Champions League Preview: Tuesday sees Manchester United host Valencia, while City make the trip to Hoffenheim
It is that time again. The Champions League Matchweek 2 gets underway on Tuesday.
With an exhilarating start to the tournament the fixtures are raining in with some real slobber knockers.
The likes of Barcelona, Liverpool, and Bayern Munich have gotten off to a stellar start and clubs like Tottenham, Valencia and PSG are still reeling from disappointing losses.
Here is the build to the two games involving sides from Manchester in Tuesday night:
Man United vs Valencia
Theatre of dreams will be the setting when Spanish side Valencia roll into Manchester on Tuesday evening.
United are sitting atop Group H and will want to hold on the top spot before two consecutive Champions League games with Juventus.
Form (all competitions): WWWDLL
Things are a lot different since United took to the field in Champions League last month. With Murphy’s Law coming into full force, whatever could go wrong has gone wrong for the club.
The Premier League title challenge for the most celebrated English club seems to be over for another season, another premature death. The latest setback came against London side West Ham United who made mince meat of United on Saturday. The final score was flatteringly 1-3. It was their third loss in seven Premier League games making their worst start to a domestic campaign since 1989-90.
The team seems to be stuck in a vicious downward spiral with the relationship between manager Mourinho and star player and World Cup winner Pogba at an all time low.
Paul Pogba made different kind of headlines in Matchweek 1 when he scored a brace and captained United to a 3-0 cruise at Young Boys. Now, the armband has gone and so has the thaw that seemed to be taking place in his personal frostiness with Jose.
They have already exited one Cup competition losing to Derby County in the third round of the EFL Cup. A defeat on Tuesday would mean three losses on the bounce, a first since September 2016.
United have not won at Old Trafford in almost two months ago. They have not lost two consecutive home matches since January 2014. However, United have lost just one of their last 22 European matches at Old Trafford and have not lost in 18 home games at the group stages.
Maybe Europe can be the catalyst for Mourinho to get some life and hope back in the Stretford end at Old Trafford.
Jesse Lingard, Ashley Young and Ander Herrera are unavailable due to injury. Defender Marcos Rojo remains long term absentee. Alexis Sanchez, Marcus Rashford, Fred and Valencia may also return to the starting XI.
Form (all competitions): DDLDDW
Valencia are two-time Champions League finalists. However, their recent struggles in Europe are well documented. They are coming back into the Competition after two year hiatus with dismal performances in La Liga during that time. They finished 12th-placed finishes in two consecutive La Liga campaigns. They also had the misfortune to be managed by United legend Gary Neville during that disastrous spell. The current Liga campaign sees the Marcelino's side at14th in the table.
They have one win out of their seven league games. However, it came in their last match against Real Sociedad on Saturday, the new acquisition Kevin Gameiro getting first goal and winner for the club.
More worryingly, their Champions League campaign also began with a home loss to a 10-man Juventus. The score line ended at 0-2 with a red card for Cristiano Ronaldo in the first half. Juventus scored from two penalties and Valencia missed one of their own. It was also their fourth successive loss in the Champions League. Another loss on Tuesday will crown then only the third Spanish team with five consecutive defeats in the competition after Real Sociedad and Villareal. Their anathema this season has been scoring goals just two net busters in their last five matches, across all competitions.
Los Che, as they are called, might not get a better chance to drive in another proverbial nail in the coffin for the Red Devils at Old Trafford.
Valencia should have Jose Gaya back from injury, but Santi Mina and Ferran Torres remain out. Ex-gunners Francis Coquelin and Gabriel Paulista can feature in a robust midfield with Rodrigo Moreno (already scored at Old Trafford), Gameiro and Michy Batshuayi vying for in the forward positions.
United have a dismal home record against Spanish clubs with just 2 victories and 6 defeats in 13 matches. Valencia too, can only show 3 wins out of their 17 matches in England.
The last match between the two provided one of ended in a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford in the group stages of 2010-11 campaign. Overall, the two sides have five draws in their eight previous occasions with four of the last five all being draws. United have two victories while Valencia have one.
Jose Mourinho has an imperious record against the Spanish side with 6 wins and 4 draws in 10 clashes. Paul Pogba has been involved in all three United goals this campaign and will be hoping to get his mojo back on the European stage.
Hoffenheim vs Man City
Champions League newcomers Hoffenheim play their inaugural home match in the Champions League against the Champions of England on Tuesday night.
Form (all competitions): WLDDWL
Hoffenheim are the 12th German club to play in the group stages of the competition, after falling at the qualifying stage last season. They did not fare much better in the Europa League finishing bottom of their group consisting of Braga, Ludogorets and Istanbul Basaksehir.
Currently they occupy the 12th place in the Bundesliga after six matches after finishing third last season.
They have three losses; two wins and one draw and are four points from the top 4 qualifying spots. They lost 2-1 against RB Leipzig on the weekend. Interestingly, Nagelsmann will move to Leipzig next summer. He is the competition's youngest ever manager and certainly a hot commodity in the managerial roulette.
Their Champions League opener was a draw at Shaktar having led twice through goals from Florian Grillitsch and Havard Nordtveit. Their 2-2 draw means they are without a defeat in five European matches after losing the first before that.
Manager Nagelsmann has a few injury concerns with as many as eight players carrying knocks for the match. The list includes defenders Ermin Bicakcic, Nordtveit and Kevin Vogt.
Kerem Demirbay returned at the weekend, but the likes of Kasim Nuhu, Benjamin Hubner, Lukas Rupp and Dennis Geiger remain injury doubts.
Form (all competitions): WWLWWW
Man City finished returned to the top of the Premier League last weekend after winning 2-0 against Brighton & Hove Albion. But in Europe, the story has been more like Shakespearean tragedy than Athenian triumph. With a home defeat to Lyon on Matchday 1, they became the first English side to lose four consecutive matches in the competition.
This is their eighth consecutive appearance in the competition and the only modicum of progression came three years back with a run to the semi-finals under Manuel Pellegrini in 2015-16.
The final hurdle of European glory seems to be getting harder every year for City to circumvent. In the last two campaigns, City have been eliminated at the quarter-finals by Liverpool and the last-16 stage by Monaco.
Having lost 2-1 at home to Lyon in the opening Group F match, Hoffenheim on Tuesday night becomes a must win, even if it be at the Rhein‑Neckar-Arena.
For City and Guardiola, another failure in the world's most watched club trophy will nag at their claim to be one of the greatest sides of the last few decades even if they become the fifth side to retain the domestic English title.
Sergio Aguero is fit for the trip to Germany. He came off during the weekend win over Brighton. Benjamin Mendy and Fabian are also accompanying the Argentine in the physio’s room. Kevin De Bruyne is still couple of weeks from competitive involvement after his knee injury.
Vincent Kompany, John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi should start in defence. Oleksandr Zinchenko, Danilo and Kyle Walker will provide ample cover in the wingback/fullback positions.
Hoffenheim have a wretched European record in recent memory with just 1 victory in 9 nine matches in Europe (5 losses). The club’s only meeting against English opposition came in 6-3 playoff defeat to Liverpool last season
Florian Grillitsch can become the first ever Austrian player to score in his first two appearances in the Champions League if he can find the net against City on Tuesday.
City have won two of their last four matches on German soil after having five reverses in their first six visits to the country The one loss came against Bohemian behemoth, Bayern Munich.
Guardiola is unbeaten against Hoffenheim (for Munich) with five wins and one draw.
The fit again Aguero will be champing at the bits to add to his 26 goal tally for City in the Champions League, more than any other player.