This is surely the deadest of rubbers but Manchester City will at least be looking to ensure no loss of momentum when they welcome Sporting CP to the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday in the Champions League round of 16. The hard work was done in the first leg, a 5-0 victory in Lisbon that gives them a lead no team has ever overturned in this competition.
In all likelihood it will merely be a case of playing for pride in this game but who knows the jitters City might suffer if they concede early. Here is how you can watch the match and what you need to know:
Date: Wednesday, March 9 | Time: 3 p.m. ET
Location: Etihad Stadium — Manchester, United Kingdom
TV: CBS | Live stream: Paramount+
Odds: Manchester City -700; Draw +650; Sporting +1800 (via Caesars Sportsbook)
Featured Game | Manchester City vs. Sporting CP
Manchester City: If Sporting want a reason to believe it might come in the threadbare nature of the defense Pep Guardiola will have to field at the Etihad Stadium. Joao Cancelo is ill whilst both Ruben Dias and Nathan Ake are injured, leaving City extremely light on frontline defenders. It does not help that Kyle Walker is serving the second of a three-game ban for kicking out at Andre Silva in the final game of the group stages, an act that left his manager far from impressed.
“He deserved the three-game ban,” Guardiola said. “When a player does a stupid thing, he deserves [punishment]. I’m not so kind to Kyle in this kind of action. I’m still so angry with him.
“Kyle is so important for us — you saw the game he played against Manchester United [on Sunday]. But in Leipzig when we had already qualified, 80 minutes in and he made this kind of action? The club appealed but I did not agree. They have to do it because in other similar cases it was just two games [but] he deserved it. Hopefully he learns for the future.”
Sporting: Ruben Amorim’s side don’t need to do much to improve on their historic results at this stage of the Champions League, having lost 12-1 to Bayern Munich in their one previous last 16 jaunt anything better than a thrashing represents progress for the Portuguese champions.
Their task in Manchester will be all the harder without several key players. Matheus Nunes (suspended), Pedro Gonçalves (muscular issue) and Joao Palhinha (groin) are all unavailable and Amorim has been forced to fill out his squad with youngsters. Not ideal when you are facing one of the best teams in Europe.
City could arguably win this by whatever margin they want but with a potentially tough Premier League game to come against Crystal Palace at the weekend do not be surprised if they take their foot off the gas. PICK: Manchester City 2, Sporting 0