After last season’s shock quarter-final exit to Lyon, Manchester City get their Champions League campaign under way tonight when Porto visit the Etihad.
Pep Guardiola knows this is the trophy the club’s owners are desperate to secure but what can we expect from City’s clash with the Portuguese champions?
The Aguero dilemma
Sergio Aguero returned to action in City’s 1-0 victory over Arsenal on Saturday — but is he fit enough to play twice in quick succession? And will Guardiola want to risk him prior to a visit to West Ham at the weekend?
With Gabriel Jesus out injured, Guardiola must decide whether to start the Argentine or ask Raheem Sterling to lead the line.
Sterling (pictured above) has scored 20 goals in this competition since he made his debut in 2015 and is more than capable as a false nine, yet burnout for City’s No7 must be a concern.
Keeping fresh despite injuries
City currently have a lengthy injury list and Guardiola will be wary of keeping his players fresh without fielding weaker sides.
Kevin De Bruyne, Aymeric Laporte, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Benjamin Mendy and Jesus are all absent, meaning the load falls on a much smaller group of players at this busy time.
The likes of Ferran Torres, Ilkay Gundogan and Fernandinho could be called upon to protect players such as Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva, who played for 89 and 90 minutes respectively on Saturday.
More than any other Premier League club, City have dipped into the Primeira Liga to buy players over the past few years.
But rather than picking off Porto’s finest, it is Benfica who have been raided regularly.
Summer signing Ruben Dias will know plenty about the threat the visitors present, while Ederson, Joao Cancelo and Bernardo Silva also arrived from Benfica in seasons gone by.
Guardiola may tap into their knowledge of Porto, while facing former domestic rivals will give those players added motivation to win.
City’s defence vs Porto’s threat
City are likely to revert to a back four after deploying three centre-backs against the Gunners.
If Nathan Ake and Dias line up alongside each other, it will be a clear indication that Guardiola rates the duo as his best pairing in the absence of Laporte.
But one of them could slot in at left-back, opening up a spot for Eric Garcia or John Stones.
With Porto netting 12 goals in four league games this season, whoever plays will have to be on their toes.
City’s struggles in the latter stages of this competition are well documented.
But they need to make sure any mental scars from the last-eight exit to Lyon in August are forgotten.
City’s record in the group stages has been very good and they are unbeaten in their past 11 group games.
They must remember those successes, rather than the knockout woes.