The Champions League group stage draw has gone in favor of title holders Manchester City and they begin their campaign with what appears to be a home banker against Cup winners Red Star Belgrade of Europe 1991.
Some bookmakers rate the Serbian side at 33-1, even higher and longer odds than almost all of the Etihad’s Premier League opponents (with the possible exception of Luton Town). This gives you an idea of the task ahead of Red Star tonight, City face RB Leipzig and Young Boys later in the group.
Pep Guardiola’s rotation ability is hampered by some injury problems, with John Stones, Jack Grealish and Mateo Kovacic still unavailable. Grealish’s absence should mean a fresh start for Jeremy Doku, who capped an impressive performance at West Ham with a goal. The Belgian winger could prove to be a sneaky good buy for a City side that has been short of outfielders since the departures of Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling and this year’s Riyad Mahrez. Guardiola, back on the touchline after undergoing back surgery at Barcelona, could opt to start back-up goalkeeper Stefan Ortega in place of Ederson. City face Nottingham Forest in the Premier League on Saturday.
What do we know about Red Star, other than the fact that Billy Bragg’s uncle played for them? Well, this is their first group stage appearance since 2019-20, when they found themselves in a group with Bayern Munich and Tottenham. The Spurs beat them 9-0 over the two games. The previous season, Red Star found themselves in a group with PSG, Liverpool and Napoli and unsurprisingly finished last, but beat Jurgen Klopp’s side 2-0 in Belgrade. Experienced defender Aleksandar Dragovic will be one of the familiar names to observers of the European competition, having played for Bayer Leverkusen, Dynamo Kiev and Basel, and spent a season at Leicester City. Manager Barak Bakhar is in his first season joining Maccabi Haifa.
Full team news will be available soon.