Manchester City travel to Amsterdam still looking for the their first win in European competition this season but Dutch champions Ajax are unlikely to offer them an easy route to three points, particularly after the 1-4 humbling by Spanish champions Real Madrid in their previous Champions League fixture. Roberto Mancini's side scraped a 1-1 draw against Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund in their last game and will need to put together a vastly improved showing to take all three points from the Amsterdam ArenA.
The hosts are presently at the bottom of Group D and have yet to score a point, while City have only one from the first two games. With group leaders Madrid and Dortmund set to play two games against each other in the next two rounds of matches, both Ajax and City will want to maximise their points haul from rounds three and four, before facing off against the Spaniards and the Germans again.
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Coverage starts at 7.30 pm BST on Sky Sports and Sky Sports 2 HD. Live radio commentary is available from 7.45 pm BST onwards on BBC Radio 5 live.
City come into this game on the back of a hard-fought but deserved 2-1 win over West Brom in a weekend league fixture. Mancini's men were reduced to 10 men early in the game at the Hawthorns after England international James Milner was sent off for a challenge on Shane Long and the Irishman's 67th minute goal seemed to seal all three points for the Baggies. However, Bosnian striker Edin Dzeko, who was linked with a move away from the Etihad all summer, scored twice in the final ten minutes to seal an unlikely win for the champions.
The confidence from that game will be sorely needed in Ajax. City have not been very good in Europe this season, first throwing away an improbable 2-1 lead at the Santiago Bernabeu in the first round of matches (Frenchman Karim Benzema and Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo scored in the final minutes to give Jose Mourinho's side a 3-2 win) and then floundering to that 1-1 draw against Dortmund.
Mancini will be aware that to fail to progress from the group stages for the second consecutive season will be unacceptable and could threaten his position as City boss.
Meanwhile, Ajax are probably the weakest side in Group D but that isn't saying much, considering they were Dutch champions last season. Frank de Boer's side come into the game after a 3-3 draw against Heracles over the weekend. The Dutch are fourth in the Eredivise this season, with 17 points from the opening nine games. Goals have generally been easy to come by for the home side in this tie but the defence is what will concern de Boer. The side has only managed five clean sheets in 12 games and with the likes of Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez, Mario Balotelli and Dzeko to worry about, Ajax's defence is likely in for a difficult evening.
The Amsterdam club lost two key players in Belgian defender Jan Vertonghen and Dutch utility player Vurnon Anita, to Spurs and Newcastle respectively, in the summer and like PSV Eindhoven's sporting director, Marcel Brands, commented, Dutch clubs do not have the financial muscle to compete with clubs from Spain and England. However, the Dutch do have a seemingly endless supply line of remarkable young talent and that is what they will turn to when City come calling.
- Last Five (most recent first): D D L W W
- Last Match: Heracles Almelo 3 - 3 Ajax
- Last Five (most recent first): W W D W L
- Last Match: West Brom 1 - 2 Manchester City
Ajax: Frank de Boer is likely to name an unchanged side from the weekend's draw. This means ex-Liverpool players Ryan Babel and Christian Poulsen will start in attack and midfield, with the highly rated Christian Eriksen providing creative impetus. Kenneth Vermeer had an excellent time in goal against Real Madrid, even if he did ship four goals. He made a number of key stops early in the game and could once again be called upon to shut City out for as long as possible.
Probable Line-Up: Vermeer; Van Rhijn, Alderweireld, Moisander, Blind; Poulsen, Eriksen; Sana, De Jong, Boerrigter; Babel
Manchester City: The big news for City is the absence of Spain playmaker David Silva, who had a hamstring injury in the World Cup qualifier against France. Also absent are Brazilian right back Maicon and Spanish midfielder Javi Garcia. French midfielder Samir Nasri is available, though, and will take over Silva's creative role. Up front, Mancini will have to choose between two of his four strikers. Expect Aguero to start and it will likely by the weekend's two goal hero, Dzeko, who gets the nod alongside the Argentinean.
Probable Line-Up: Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy; Milner, Yaya Toure, Barry, Nasri; Dzeko, Aguero