Steaua Bucharest v Man City – Stadionul National at 19:45 live on BT Sport 2
After their opening day victory in the Premier League, Pep Guardiola will now take his Manchester City team nearly 2,000 miles to Romania to take on Steaua Bucharest in the Champions League play-off first leg.
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The hosts are already three games into their Liga I season and are sitting top of the table having won all three matches, scoring six goals in the process. Laurentiu Reghecampf’s last match ended in a 2-0 victory away to Botosani; Florin Tanase scoring on this debut.
To get to this stage of the competition, Bucharest defeat Sparta Praha over two legs drawing away from home before winning 2-0 at the Stadionul National, and now this will be their biggest test where the reward will be a spot in the group stages of the Champions League.
Furthermore, on Saturday evening the Romanian side announced another new signing in William de Amorim, making it their eighth signing of the season. Going the other way though was winger Alexandru Chipciu and Fernando Varela for a combined total of £3.7 million.
For Reghecampf, he will be heading into this home leg without defensive midfielders Lucian Filip and Mihai Pintilii who are both injured, but it looks like a fully fit team for the Romanians as they haven’t lost a game since April; sitting 16 games unbeaten in all competitions. However, Bucharest has not qualified for the group stages since 2013 and they will need something special this time around.
Manchester City, on the other hand, have just kicked off their campaign having won their first match at home under Pep Guardiola’s control, beating Sunderland 2-1 at the Etihad; Sergio Aguero opening the scoring with a penalty.
But they are no strangers to this competition, having made it to the semi-finals last season and losing to eventual winners Real Madrid 1-0 on aggregate.
Under new manager Pep, City have brought in a number of new faces in the transfer market with the likes of Nolito and Ilkay Gundogan, as well as youngsters Leroy Sane and John Stones for a combined total of £89 million.
While carrying on from last season the Premier League side have only won three of their last ten matches in all competitions and are in need of a change from the Manuel Pellegrini era.
Three players sit out injured for Guardiola’s side, including captain Vincent Kompany, while Yaya Toure and Joe Hart have both been dropped from the squad with subtle hints of being shown the exit door.
It will be good to see how City do in this match and whether the Spanish boss risks playing a weakened side before going for it in the second leg. It has always been a competition that City cannot seem to do well in, and this may be the year they push on for the cup.
These two sides have never faced each other but against English clubs Steaua have only won five of their 18 games, yet they have never won in England. City, meanwhile, have only played one other Romanian club and that was Timisoara who they beat 3-0 to qualify for the Europa League.
Looking at this game and I cannot see how Manchester City can mess this up. They may scrap a win, but they will take back a victory to the Etihad and finish off the job there. Promising year for Manchester City fans, I must admit.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Over 2.5 goals @ 1.86 with Eastbridge Sports Betting Brokerage
Prices correct at time of writing.