Basel could avoid another battering by Manchester City
Champions League last-16 second leg
BT Sport 3, 7.45pm Wednesday
Basel, utterly abysmal when City visited Switzerland last month, have got worse since that humiliation and are going to do well to save face when the sides meet again.
Trailing 4-0 after the first leg, the only way Basel can avoid a second battering is if City have an off-night.
But nothing Pep Guardiola has said suggests that they are going to drop their guard.
The Spaniard will make a few changes to his side following a great week in which his outrageously talented squad have won the League Cup and handed out lessons to Arsenal and Chelsea.
But they don’t play again until Monday so expect another masterclass from the hosts which will surely end in a routine triumph.
However, the markets point to another massacre and that may not be forthcoming.
Swiss pride should at least ensure that Raphael Wicky – under serious pressure after a month to forget – gets a positive response from his team, and a City win in a game featuring three or fewer goals is the suggestion. Such an outcome has occurred 19 times for City this season including each of their last three.
Six of Basel’s last seven matches have featured under 3.5 goals, three of which have ended in defeat.
They arrive in Manchester feeling particularly sorry for themselves. A month ago they were still pursuing, albeit lamely, Young Boys at the head of the table, were looking forward to a Swiss Cup semi-final and were in the Champions League.
City have ended any notion that their European adventure is set to go any further, a 2-0 loss at Young Boys has dashed their domestic cup dream and league losses to Lugano and St Gallen mean they are now 14 points adrift of top spot.
The power failure which forced Saturday’s showdown with Zurich to be postponed at least gave them a weekend off, but it was appropriate for a club in crisis.
Key man Taulant Xhaka is suspended and they have not recovered from the January sales of classy centre-back Manuel Akanji and Renato Steffen.
They are facing a decline and they at least need to stop the bleeding in Manchester.
Two of City’s three losses this season have come in cup ties, including one at Shakhtar in this competition when Guardiola made plenty of changes.
That might encourage Basel though the way they were cut to pieces by City at St Jakob Park, where the visitors boasted 70 per cent possession and effectively played it as home training exercise, might make them fearful.
Basel will presumably err towards 'the Chelsea approach’ which might not curry favour with Gary Neville but is surely better than being spanked by seven or eight.
Manchester City & under 3.5 goals
1pt 11-10 Betfred, BoyleSports, Ladbrokes
Raheem Sterling and Fernandinho have recovered from hamstring injuries. Fabian Delph returns from a ban. Benjamin Mendy is back in training.
Midfielder Taulant Xhaka is suspended. Eder Balanta is a doubt following a month out.
Basel’s two previous round-of-16 away ties ended in 7-0 and 4-0 defeats.
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