A Tale of One City – Manchester’s European Adventure Begins
As both the red and blue sides of Manchester prepare for Champions League action tonight, it’s time to take a look at what we can expect from each club’s first European games of the season.
September 14th, 2011
It was the best of times, it was the…well, just the best of times. And the entire city of Manchester rejoiced (assuming that any of their fans actually live in the city) as Manchesters City and United kick off their Champions League campaigns tonight.
Old hands United begin in Portugal, against a Benfica side who hadn’t qualified for a European semi-final in 18 years before losing to eventual runners-up Braga in last year’s Europa League final. Benfica dropped out of the Champions League at the group stage last season – that semi-final proving little consolation to a team hungry for another European accolade.
United will be without the services of central defender Rio Ferdinand, who nonetheless played a full 90 minutes in Saturday’s 5-0 demolition of Wigan. Doubtless manager Alex Ferguson has his reasons for Ferdinand’s exclusion from the squad, but perhaps this is not the night to rest such an important player. Only time will tell if Benfica can take advantage; it’s set to be a lively match so expect a few goals.
Meanwhile, the blue side of Manchester makes its debut appearance in Europe’s premier competition tonight, at home against fellow first-timers Napoli – whose domestic season only began this previous Saturday due to a strike by Serie A players. Big-spending City already have five games under their belt – and more importantly, four league wins out of four to put them second on goal difference to their red neighbours. Their headstart on the season against a perhaps rusty Napoli side should see them run out comfortable winners – but don’t count out the feisty Italian debutantes.