Manchester City vs. Bayern Munich: Cancelo returns to the Etihad in a tie that could be decided by full backs


When Manchester City and Bayern Munich meet on Tuesday for the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal, the attacks of the teams will be on full display. With stars like Erling Haaland and Thomas Muller, it make sense why the focus would be on the attacking play. These are, after all, two of the most prolific attacking teams around. But for managers Pep Guardiola and Thomas Tuchel, the attack begins with their talented fullbacks. 

One of the difference makers in the match could be none other than Joao Cancelo. The Portuguese fullback, immensely talented, was key to Manchester City’s attack but he saw his playing time dwindle with the team before eventually being loaned to Bayern Munich in January with an option to make the deal permanent. It was a curious decision Guardiola considering that Cancelo delivered nine goals and 22 assists during 156 appearances for City, but when Guardiola has a falling out with a player, it is something that he resolves immediately before it impacts the remainder of the squad. 

How to watch and odds

  • Date: Tuesday, Apr. 11 | Time: 3 p.m. ET
  • Location: Etihad Stadium — Manchester, England
  • TV: CBS | Live stream: Paramount+
  • Odds: City -138; Draw: +300; Bayern +333 (via Caesars Sportsbook)

The void of not having Cancelo is something that City are still trying to fill as Guardiola has altered his system using 3-4 center backs with John Stones or Nathan Ake becoming the players that step into midfield. He admitted that the inverted fullback role is something that Kyle Walker is struggling with and it’s also something that young Rico Lewis has excelled at in spots but it’s important to remember that he’s only 18 years old.

To compensate, Guardiola has shifted to a 3-2-4-1 putting emphasis on wide support from wingers and that’s how he’ll be expected to target Bayern Munich in the match. Jack Grealish’s improvement on the wing has allowed Guardiola to play without true fullbacks as he’s made the left flank his own while Bernardo Silva and Riyad Mahrez are doing enough on the right in the absence of Phil Foden. 

But on the Bayern side, Alphonso Davies and Cancelo will have a serious task on their hands. Not only will they have to stop City’s wingers from delivering devastating crosses to Haaland, but they’ll also need to figure out how to do as much as possible to make it past City’s disciplined defense. Both attack the game in different ways but between Davies’ dribbling and Cancelo’s passing and shooting, it can give the team enough creative power if the forwards show up. Add to it the familiarity of Cancelo and City, and it makes for a mouth-watering battle. 

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Bayern have become an unpredictable side as of late, scoring four goals against Borussia Dortmund but then only scoring two goals across two matches versus SC Freiburg following that offensive outburst. Tuchel, who just replaced Julian Naglesmann, is still trying to figure out his best XI and he’ll need it against a City side that are up for every challenge in their way as of late. City have scored four or more goals in their last four games. 

Holes can be found in Bayern’s defense and if Kevin de Bruyne can find them, this is a match that could get ugly. It’s a tie that will be a chess match on the pitch with fullbacks likely to win it or lose it, and the first manager to make a wrong move will be punished.

Predicted lineups 

Manchester City: Ederson; John Stones, Ruben Dias, Manuel Akanji, Nathan Ake; Rodri, Ilkay Gundogon, Kevin de Bruyne; Jack Grealish, Bernardo Silva, Erling Haaland

Bayern Munich: Yann Sommer; Alphonso Davies, Matthijs de Ligt, Benjamin Pavard, Joao Cancelo; Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka, Jamal Musiala; Leroy Sane, Thomas Muller, Serge Gnabry

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