Last updated & checked: 10/08/2021
At half-time of the first leg, the biggest possible shock of this season’s Champions League last 16 stood a live chance of becoming a reality. Schalke led Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City by a 2-1 margin, thanks to two Nabil Bentaleb penalties. Despite the loss of a player to a red card, City came back to win 3-2 and, with home advantage, three away goals and a lead to lean back on, they are now hugely comfortable ahead of this game.
Schalke – whose young coach Domenico Tedesco is suffering from an advanced case of Second Season Syndrome – come into this second leg with next to no hope of progressing. That may be just as well, given that they really need to focus attention on avoiding relegation one year after finishing second in the Bundesliga.
Manchester City vs Schalke 04 Prediction: Manchester City 3-1 Schalke 04
With most of the work done in this tie, Manchester City can treat this game much like they would approach an average Premier League weekend against a team like Watford. While this season has seen occasional complacency from Guardiola’s side, it’s hard to see them slipping up here against a Schalke side that is running extremely low on confidence. It is more than possible to see the visitors getting a goal themselves – they’ll need to attack here and there’s every chance they’ll find a gap or two – but in the end, City will have more than enough to brush them aside.
Our recommended tip: City win and BTTS
A look at the sides who have beaten Manchester City this season shows names like Leicester City, Newcastle and Crystal Palace. That won’t have been lost on Pep Guardiola, who will have drilled into his players that a lack of focus can be extremely damaging. In truth, though, there is a lesson in the way Schalke folded in on themselves when, having led early on, they lost 4-2 to Werder Bremen on Friday. Tedesco needs his side to get to the end of the season with their heads above water in the league – so even if City are looking past this game to bigger challenges, they seem good value to win with both teams scoring – that’s 9/5 at Paddy Power.
The first leg of this tie pulled together so many threads that have run throughout this season. City’s occasional slackness was evident in them conceding two penalties that allowed Schalke to lead at half time, and the red card that was then shown to Nicolas Otamendi would have redoubled the cautious optimism of the Schalke die-hards. However, even at a one-man disadvantage, City found another gear, a stunning Leroy Sane free-kick levelled the scores on 85 minutes, and a collapsing home side were undone by a long kick-out from goalkeeper Ederson, allowing Raheem Sterling to make it 3-2 in the final minute
Top 3 Champions League Bookies
Players to watch: Riyad Mahrez & Nabil Bentaleb
Mahrez’s first season as a Manchester City player has been patchy – he’s put in some performances that have shown exactly why the Premier League champions parted with £60million for his signature, but has often fallen behind Sane and others in the pecking order for a starting place. No longer a big fish in a small pond as he was at Leicester, the Algerian is at his best when there’s space to play in, and Schalke’s need for goals tonight will afford him that.
Mahrez’s Algerian compatriot Bentaleb leads the Royal Blues in goalscoring in this season’s Champions League, with three. The catch? All three goals have been from the penalty spot, two against City in the first leg. There’s no guarantee that Schalke will be in the opposing penalty area often enough for Bentaleb to get the chance – but if he does, he has shown that he reacts well to the pressure of a key penalty in a big match. If given the chance this evening, he’s a good bet to dispatch it.