Although Manchester City have secured qualification for the knockout stages of the Champions League, they still have a small amount of unfinished business in the competition. The reigning English champions need a point from this meeting with Hoffenheim to secure top spot in the group, with Lyon just three points behind them. Should City lose and Lyon win, the Ligue 1 club would win the group as they own an advantage in any head-to-head tiebreak between the sides.
Looking at Hoffenheim’s season so far, a point should be well within grasp for the hosts. Indeed, with no wins in their last four games, the German side should present few obstacles as long as City don’t have a complete meltdown. Still, with Julian Nagelsmann’s side needing three points to land them in the Europa League, and the Mancunian side coming off their first domestic defeat of the season, there are reasons for Pep Guardiola to be cautious.
Manchester City vs Hoffenheim Prediction: Manchester City 3-0 Hoffenheim
It was always going to be tough going on impossible for City to keep up the form of November, which saw them score four or more goals on three occasions and also thrash local rivals United. So far in December they’ve drawn in Lyon, edged past Watford and fallen to a surprise defeat at Chelsea. Here’s the thing – they aren’t playing markedly worse, and on the balance of play were the better side at Stamford Bridge. Sometimes you’re lucky, sometimes you aren’t – but in front of their own fans they should have enough to win comfortably here. Should.
Our recommended tip: Raheem Sterling FGS
Sterling has been in the news recently for reasons beyond his control, and has bravely spoken out to shine a light on the – let’s not mince words – idiotic, racist treatment to which he is subjected by spectators and, often, the press. When not having to fend off cretinous scrutiny into how he spends money he has earned, or hearing bigoted tirades from the stands, Sterling is an exceptionally gifted footballer. Paddy Power are offering 5/1 on him to open the scoring here, and it would be a fine way to show the critics what they should be focusing on – his abilities as a player.
Bearing in mind that Hoffenheim have only been in Germany’s top flight for a decade, and in European competition much more recently, it’s no surprise that these sides have had limited exposure to one another.
In October at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena, the home side got off to the best possible start. Ishak Belfodil’s goal in the first minute of his club’s first-ever home Champions League game had the supporters briefly dreaming of a major win. The dream was six minutes long in total, as Sergio Aguero then equalised for the visitors. Then, three minutes from time, David Silva ensured all three points for City with a late winner.
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Players to watch: Ilkay Gundogan & Andrej Kramaric
Gundogan is not one of the first names to roll off the tongue when listing City’s stars, and he doesn’t start every game, but the German international is a pivotal player for his club. Comfortable in possession and blessed with an almost eerie instinct for the right moment to get forward and join an attack, the former Dortmund midfielder is custom-made for European occasions and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him in from the start here after City rested him and lost at the weekend.
Kramaric will be familiar to English viewers from his short spell at Leicester and his jaunt to the World Cup final with Croatia. While he may not have taken off in the Premier League, his finishing ability has been among the bright spots of Hoffenheim’s season so far. He’s scored in his last eight games for club and country, including snatching an equaliser to secure a point at the weekend against Wolfsburg. Can he make it nine in nine?