Manchester City can be expected to open up an advantage ahead of the return fixture when they travel to Germany to take on Schalke in the first leg of their Champions League round-of-16 clash on Wednesday (3pm ET).
Man City progressed to the knockout stages as group winners ahead of Lyon and were rewarded with a draw against arguably the weakest of the opponents they could have faced. Schalke finished second in the Bundesliga last season but have struggled for form this season.
After just six wins from their 22 matches, and on the back of a 0-0 draw at home to Freiburg on Saturday, Schalke find themselves in 14th. While relegation is unlikely, especially as their underlying statistics are much better than those of many of the other sides towards the bottom, they will nevertheless find it difficult to secure even a top-half finish.
Interestingly, they showed well in an admittedly relatively weak Champions League group. Porto beat them to first place, but Schalke comfortably finished second on the back of three wins, two draws and one defeat. They conceded just four times in six matches – the joint second-best record of any side during the group stage.
Domenico Tedesco is a coach obsessed with the control of space and matches involving Schalke tend to be pretty tightly contested affairs. In the Bundesliga, their matches average less goals (2.59) than those of any other team, while their Champions League group-stage encounters averaged a paltry 1.67 goals per match – the lowest of any side.
There is not an outstanding attacking threat for Man City to concern themselves with. Guido Burgstaller was the club’s only player to break double figures in the league last season and it looks unlikely that anyone will do so this time around. There are, though, likely to be a couple of familiar faces in the Schalke’s starting XI in the form of ex-Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Nabil Bentaleb and former City defender Matija Nastasic.
Manchester City arrive at the Veltins Arena in good form. They have reopened the Premier League title race with seven wins in their last eight in the league, while they have an overall record of 11 wins in 12 matches in all competitions since the turn of the calendar year. Their 4-1 win away to Newport County in the FA Cup on Saturday continued their high-scoring start to the year, making it 46 scored in 12 matches – an average of nearly four goals per match.
Pep Guardiola’s side have one of the most fearsome attacks in Europe. Only Paris Saint-Germain scored more than their 16 goals during the Champions League group stage. City are comfortably the highest scoring team in the Premier League, averaging 2.74 goals per match. That is more than the average total of both teams in matches involving Schalke.
Sergio Aguero has scored hat-tricks in two of his last three matches – and a total of nine goals in his last six in all competitions – and is just one of the many forward options available to Guardiola, alongside Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez and Schalke youth team graduate Leroy Sane. Yet while Man City’s attack stands out, their defensive numbers are also among the best in Europe.
The task now is to convert those attributes into a deeper run in the Champions League than they have managed in either of Guardiola’s previous two campaigns at the helm. In his first, they were eliminated by Monaco in the round of 16; in his second, by Liverpool in the last eight. For someone who reached at least the semi-finals in each of his first seven seasons as a head coach, progressing to that stage will be a minimum aim this time around.
Our Preview’s Schalke vs Man City Betting Predictions & Picks Verdict
Man City should certainly be expected to advance beyond Schalke into the last eight. They saw off a better German team in Hoffenheim home and away during the group stage of this year’s competition and are simply too good on both an individual and collective level for Schalke to live with them over the course of the two legs.
Even if there are a couple of rotations ahead of the Carabao Cup final against Chelsea at the weekend, Man City should still be relatively comfortable victors on Wednesday. Here are our Schalke vs Man City predictions for this Champions League soccer match preview, taking the pick of the odds with the sports betting websites for Americans:
- Bet on Manchester City -1.75 goals on the spread @ odds of -106 with Bookmaker.