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Prediction: Steaua vs Manchester City

Verdict: Half-time draw

Best Odds: 13/10

Bookmaker: William Hill

The 1986 European Cup champions Steaua have been handed a tough task in the 2016/2017 Champions League play-offs, having been pitted against Premier League giants Manchester City. And while the Citizens are still far from the desired form, they have got to be considered hot favourites to go through to the group stage.

Steaua

Steaua are without a doubt Romania’s most famous club and the only side from the Eastern European country to have won the European Cup and European Super Cup. The Army Men haven’t enjoyed too much success on European stage in recent years, and their run of three straight league trophies ended last term as Astra Giurgiu emerged victorious. Nevertheless, having ended the regular season in fifth place, Steaua did well to climb to second and thus secured Champions League qualification. The team have shown plenty of improvement since talented coach Laurentiu Reghecampf returned to the helm, and they earned a chance to fight Manchester City for a place in the group stages thanks to a 3-1 aggregate win over Sparta Prague. The club have seriously reinforced their ranks in the summer, but the problem is that most new signings have yet to be registered, meaning they will not be available for the Manchester City game. Steaua are in better shape than their opponents having already played six competitive fixtures and packed Arena Nationala Stadium is likely to come in handy as well.

Team News

Key midfielder Mihai Pintilii misses out through injury, whereas new signings Florin Andone, Rick Boldrin and William Amorim are unavailable as well.

Manchester City

Many believe that Pep Guardiola will turn Manchester City into genuine title contenders again, but it is clear the process will not be completed overnight. The Citizens are definitely stronger than last term having recruited the likes of Ilkay Gundogan, Nolito, Leroy Sane, John Stones and Oleksandr Zinchenko, but they still have plenty of problems at the back. While the boss clearly didn’t want to risk crocked Nicolas Otamendi against Sunderland, his decision to play Aleksandar Kolarov as centre-back and leave Eliaquim Mangala out of the match squad definitely raised eyebrows, with the likes of Joe Hart and Yaya Toure left on the bench. The Citizens were far from impressive in the opening Premier League fixture against Sunderland, but they eventually managed to claim maximum points thanks to Paddy McNair own goal. However, with their next opponents in pretty good form at the moment, Man City will have to show improvement if they want to avoid a surprise at Arena Nationala. The Premier League side have done fairly well on Champions League travels of late, winning three of last six away fixtures, and they will be looking to extend the good run in Romania.

Team News

Nicolas Otamendi could return to the side from a tendon injury, with Aleksandar Kolarov set to make way, but Willy Caballero should continue in goal.

Captain Vincent Kompany and summer recruit Ilkay Gundogan continue to miss out, but there are no fresh selection worries for Pep Guardiola ahead of the trip to Bucarest.

Key Factors to Consider

  • The two sides have never met before
  • Steaua won last four games in all competitions
  • The Romanian side kept three straight clean sheets
  • Man City won four of last eight away games in CL
  • Steaua are without three summer signings

Conclusion

Manchester City are clearly struggling for form at the moment and quite a few important players have yet to reach the desired level on fitness. Steaua, on the other hand, look sharp at the moment and we believe they will be able to keep their more illustrious opponents at bay for large periods of the match.

Verdict: Half-time draw

Best Odds: 13/10

Bookmaker: William Hill

Mon 15 Aug, 2016
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