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Manuel Akanji at right-back, Matheus Nunes makes first start – Predicted XI: Manchester City vs Red Star Belgrade (UEFA Champions League Group Stage)



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Manchester City commence their UEFA Champions League campaign for the 2023/24 season with a home tie against Serbian side Red Star Belgrade.

Just three months after lifting the elusive trophy in Istanbul, City begin their campaign in a new quest to retain the crown at the Etihad Stadium, as they welcome Serbian champions Crvena zvezda to east Manchester.

Tuesday night’s clash will be the first meeting between the two sides, and with two defeats from their last three games, Red Star will likely be hoping for a miracle as they travel to the home of the firing Premier League and European champions.

Making it a fifth consecutive English top-flight victory on Saturday, Manchester City travelled to West Ham in a clash between two respective champions of the continent, one which saw the Champions League winners emerge victorious.

However, the pendulum swung the wrong way in the first-half for the Blues, as a James Ward-Prowse diving header put the cat amongst the pigeons, giving David Moyes’ squad a priceless, and somewhat surprising, lead at the half time interval.

It would not be long before the quality and difference between the two sides would prevail, as summer recruit Jeremy Doku would find a way through the resilient West Ham defence, silencing the home crowd by grabbing his first goal in Sky Blue colours.

Manchester City continued to push and probe the home side in an attempt to force a breakthrough, which would eventually come via Bernardo Silva, after being released in the penalty area by Julian Alvarez, making no mistake and putting the champions in front.

The blues held possession well following the goal that put them ahead on the night, before extending their lead through the inevitable goalscorer Erling Haaland, who had chances in abundance prior to his strike.

It was a classic counter-attacking move which was finished by Haaland, as the Norwegian was played in by Bernardo Silva, before firing the ball past Alphonse Areola, celebrating in relief rather than joy, which ultimately personified his afternoon.

The three points came back to Manchester and ensured City’s position remained at the top of the Premier League table, as the focus now turns to midweek. Pep Guardiola and his players will be looking to kick-start their Champions League campaign with a victory, as the blues attempt to retain the title they won for the first time back in June.

With that being said, here is the side we predict will take on Red Star Belgrade in Manchester City’s UEFA Champions League group stage opener for the 2023/24 season!

Predicted XI

Ederson will start between the sticks.

Pep Guardiola discussed the idea of resting Kyle Walker in his pre-match press conference on Monday afternoon, and as such we expect the Englishman to sit this one out with Manuel Akanji filling in on the right of the defensive line instead.

Ruben Dias was excellent once again at the weekend at the London Stadium, and we expect the Portugal international to partner a returning Nathan Ake, who was rotated at the weekend.

Jokso Gvardiol suffered a 7-0 defeat in his last UEFA Champions League outing at this stadium with RB Leipzig, but we expect the Croatian to start and hopefully be on the right end of a result this time around.

Rodrigo should retain his place in midfield for Manchester City.

After making his City debut on Saturday afternoon, we expect Matheus Nunes to be given a full Etihad Stadium debut on Tuesday night, partnering Phil Foden in the centre of the park.

Julian Alvarez was instrumental at the weekend, grabbing two crucial assists, and we expect the Argentina star to keep his place, especially after Pep Guardiola deemed the forward to be “almost undroppable” following his performance at the weekend.

Erling Haaland will be looking to open his account in this season’s UEFA Champions League campaign, and should start on Tuesday night.

As Jack Grealish is once again ruled out of the clash due to an ongoing recovery process from a muscular problem, we believe Jeremy Doku will keep his place and complete the starting eleven for Tuesday’s match.

Predicted XI: Ederson; Akanji, Dias, Ake, Gvardiol; Rodrigo, Nunes, Foden; Alvarez, Haaland, Doku.

Substitutes: Ortega Moreno, Carson, Walker, Lewis, Gomez, Phillips, Bernardo Silva, Bobb.