Pep’s pre-match thoughts: BT Sport ask him how much the weekend fixture against Liverpool influenced his selection of a line-up with five changes from the Southampton game. “Nothing,” he says. “The guys who have been playing are tired, they are fatigued. That’s why we put fresh legs.”
He’s asked how Erling Haaland took the news that he’d be on the bench. “I didn’t speak with him,” says Pep. “I don’t give to my players the decisions we take or the reasons why. They will not understand it because they want to play all the time.” He goes on to add that he wants Julian Alvarez to “be himself because he’s an exceptional player.”
Those teams: Despite scoring 20 goals from 13 starts since joining Manchester City, Erling Haaland drops to the bench, presumably as punishment for the slump in form that yielded a miserable return of just one goal for the striker in City’’s 4-0 win over Southampton at the weekend. Julian Alvarez steps up in the front three, alongside Jack Grealish and Riyad Mahrez. Aymeric Laporte returned to partner Manuel Akanji in central defence, with Joao Cancelo and Sergio Gomez in the full-back roles.
Copenhagen manager Jacob Neestrup makes two changes to the team that drew against Nordsjælland last time out. Valdemar Lund Jensen and Nicolai Boilesen come into his side.
FC Copenhagen v Manchester City line-ups
FC Copenhagen: Grabara, Lund Jensen, Khocholava, Boilesen, Jelert, Stamenic, Lerager, Kristiansen, Claesson, Arnar Haraldsson, Daramy.
Subs: Diks, Sorensen, Johannesson, Mukairu, Johnsson, Ankersen, Bardghji, Clem, Ryan.
Manchester City: Ederson, Joao Cancelo, Akanji, Laporte, Gomez, Rodri, Gundogan, Mahrez, De Bruyne, Grealish, Alvarez.
Subs: Dias, Ake, Haaland, Ortega, Bernardo Silva, Carson, Foden, Palmer, Lewis, Wilson-Esbrand.
Referee: Artur Soraes Dias (Portugal)
Jacob Neestrup speaks: “City will undoubtedly have a lot of possession again but hopefully we will have more sequences where we have the ball on our own feet,” said the Copenhagen manager. “Here it is important that we are a little calmer on the ball, because that way we can also take away four to five per cent of their possession and have a slightly closer game than last time. And then we play in Parken in front of our own fans, and of course that also makes a difference. We’ve looked at some of the things we can do better, and at the same time it’s also about limiting what they’re good at.”
Pre-match Pep: “We play one week later and they have pride and they want to perform,” he says of facing Copenhagen in back-to-back Champions League fixtures. “But at the same time, we have a chance to conclude our qualification for the next stage and we are going to try tomorrow.”
Tonight’s match officials
Referee: Artur Dias
Assistant referees: Rui Tavares and Paulo Soares
Fourth official: Fabio Verissimo
Video Assistant Referee: Tiago Martins
Early team news …
With a match against Liverpool to come on Sunday and qualification for the knockout stages all but assured, Pep Guardiola may decide to rest some of his first team staples tonight. Speculation abounds that he may rest Erling Haaland, news that would surely come as music to the ears of Copenhagen’s players, if not the player himself. City are definitely without injured duo Kyle Walker and Kalvin Phillips, while John Stones is also unlikely to feature because of a hamstring injury. Aymeric Laporte could also make his second start of the season in the heart of City’s defence as he ramps up to full fitness following knee surgery.
Copenhagen manager Jacob Neestrup has mounting injury woes and has eight players in total sidelined. Nigerian winger Akinkunmi Amoo and Portuguese captain Zeca remain absent, while defender Denis Vavro, striker Andreas Cornelius and midfielder Rasmus Falk are also among the lame and halt. Only seventh in the Danish league table after 12 games, Copenhagen drew 1-1 with leaders Nordsjælland at the weekend.
Group G: FC Copenhagen v Manchester City
Top of the group with maximum points from their three games, victory for Manchester City in Denmark tonight will guarantee them their place in the knockout rounds with two games to spare. The odds are very much in their favour, not least because they swatted Copenhagen aside with the bare minimum of fuss at the Etihad last week and their hosts are bottom of the group table with just one point. Kick-off at the Parken Stadium is at 5.45pm (BST) but stay tuned in the meantime for all the team news and build-up.