Manchester City’s latest in a long line of quests for Champions League glory begins on Tuesday, as La Liga giants Sevilla welcome the Premier League champions to the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan in Group G.
The Citizens were dumped out in the semi-finals by Real Madrid last year, while Los Palanganas were eliminated from the group stage before unsuccessfully challenging for Europa League glory.
Prior to the 2021-22 season, Sevilla had never failed to make it out of their Champions League group – albeit with limited success in the knockout stages – but Julen Lopetegui’s side could only finish third behind Lille and Red Bull Salzburg last term.
Previous successes in Europe’s secondary tournament also counted for nothing as Sevilla lost to West Ham United in the last 16 of the Europa League, but a fourth-placed finish in La Liga handed Los Palanganas another chance to test their mettle in the top tier.
The breakup of the Jules Kounde-Diego Carlos defensive partnership has had a profound effect on the Sevilla team, though, and Lopetegui has steered his side to just one point from their opening four La Liga fixtures to leave them 17th in the embryonic standings.
The visit of a rampant Barcelona was only ever going to end one way, as Eric Garcia, Raphinha and Robert Lewandowski propelled La Blaugrana to a 3-0 success at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan to leave Sevilla still waiting for their first win of the new term.
The home faithful can take some solace in the fact that their side are unbeaten in six Champions League opening-day group-stage games – they have drawn each of their last four, though – and one point against Man City may be celebrated like all three this week.
There was to be no third successive hat-trick for Erling Braut Haaland at the weekend, and even though the towering Norwegian made it 10 Premier League goals for the season at Villa Park, Man City dropped another two points early doors.
Haaland was on hand to meet Kevin De Bruyne’s pinpoint cross at the back stick to tap home the opener in the second half, but Leon Bailey’s thunderbolt restored parity for Villa, who were incorrectly denied a second goal for offside when Philippe Coutinho rifled home.
Arsenal now have the chance to move four points clear of Man City at the top of the Premier League table with victory over Manchester United, but there is still a lot of domestic football to be played in the coming months, and City fans are also growing impatient for a continental honour.
The brilliance of Karim Benzema, skilfulness of Vinicius Junior and super-sub impact of Rodrygo all contributed to Real Madrid’s astounding 6-5 aggregate win over City in last year’s Champions League semi-finals, but the Manchester club have never been eliminated from the group stage under Guardiola.
Man City ran out 5-2 winners over two matches when they first met Sevilla competitively in the 2015-16 group stage, and if the home side were not already fearing an in-form Haaland enough, the 22-year-old struck four goals in two games for Borussia Dortmund against Los Palanganas in 2020-21.
As if the departures of Carlos and Kounde were not painful enough, Sevilla remain depleted in defence by injuries to Marcao and Karim Rekik, and the former is still absent for another couple of weeks with a small hamstring tear.
Jesus Corona is also expected to remain sidelined until 2023 with a fibula fracture, while former Manchester United man Adnan Januzaj was left out of the squad to face Barcelona due to concerns over his fitness, but both he and Rekik are in the party for this game.
New arrival Kasper Dolberg earned his first minutes off the bench for Sevilla at the weekend after joining on loan from Nice to compete with Youssef En-Nesyri, and Lopetegui should consider recalls for Jesus Navas, Thomas Delaney and Papu Gomez after Saturday’s disappointment.
Erik Lamela and Fernando missed a portion of training earlier this week due to muscular fatigue, so it remains to be seen if Lopetegui will risk the pair from the first whistle.
Meanwhile, Man City already have Aymeric Laporte (knee) out of contention for Tuesday’s game, and Guardiola has also ruled Kyle Walker and John Stones out of the contest – the former came off injured with 10 minutes to go against Aston Villa, while Manuel Akanji should replace the latter for his debut.
Walker’s injury could see Joao Cancelo move back to the right-hand side as either Sergio Gomez or Nathan Ake take up the left-back role, although the latter is only just back from the treatment room himself, and the visitors will also hope to have Kalvin Phillips back from a shoulder issue.
Julian Alvarez was perhaps harshly dropped from the first XI after his brace versus Nottingham Forest, but Riyad Mahrez – who loves a goal in the Champions League – arguably has a stronger chance of coming into the first XI this week.
Sevilla possible starting lineup:
Bono; Navas, Nianzou, Fernando, Acuna; Jordan, Rakitic, Delaney; Lamela, Gomez; En-Nesyri
Manchester City possible starting lineup:
Ederson; Cancelo, Dias, Akanji, Ake; Gundogan, Rodri, De Bruyne; Mahrez, Haaland, Grealish