The first set of UEFA Champions League last-16 fixtures are upon us – how will the holders fare? We look ahead to Tuesday’s game at Parken Stadium with our FC Copenhagen vs Manchester City prediction and preview.
FC Copenhagen vs Manchester City: The Quick Hits
- Manchester City are expected to seize the initiative in this last-16 tie, winning Tuesday’s first leg in Copenhagen in 71.0% of the Opta supercomputer’s pre-match simulations.
- Man City have won their last eight Champions League games, the longest run by any English side in European Cup/Champions League history.
- Roony Bardghji scored the winner when Copenhagen beat Manchester United 4-3 in the group stage. He could now become just the second player to net against two different English clubs in the Champions League as a teenager, after Kylian Mbappé.
The UEFA Champions League is back, and on Tuesday, all eyes will be on the defending champions. Real Madrid – who won three successive titles between 2015-16 and 2017-18 – are the only team to retain European football’s top prize since the competition’s 1992 rebrand, but Manchester City approach the knockout rounds as the team to beat once more. Will they make light work of underdogs Copenhagen?
In the latest edition of the Opta supercomputer’s tournament predictions, City are assigned a 32.1% chance of going all the way and winning their second European crown, making them clear favourites ahead of Madrid (15.4%), Inter (11.6%) and Bayern Munich (10.1%). Pep Guardiola’s side are given a huge 93.9% chance of advancing past Copenhagen, and given their recent form, it’s easy to see why.
Saturday’s 2-0 Premier League win over Everton made it 10 straight victories for City across all competitions, and they remain on course for a repeat of last season’s treble. Worryingly for Copenhagen, goal machine Erling Haaland looked back to his best against the Toffees, netting twice to halt a run of 17 shots and 418 minutes without a Premier League goal.
Haaland has scored 40 goals in just 35 appearances in the Champions League, and the Norwegian led all players in the competition for non-penalty shots (27), shots on target (16) and expected goals (3.83 xG) throughout the group stage, while joining Antoine Griezmann, Álvaro Morata and Rasmus Højlund at the top of the scoring charts with five goals in as many games.
Guardiola is spoilt for choice behind Haaland, with Kevin De Bruyne, Jack Grealish and Bernardo Silva all hoping to return to the lineup after being rested on Saturday. Julián Álvarez could keep his place, having recorded six goal involvements in his last five Champions League games (five goals, one assist), despite only starting one of those matches. He is averaging a goal or an assist every 31 minutes in the competition this season.
At the base of midfield, Guardiola will again rely on Rodri, the hero of last year’s final victory over Inter in Istanbul. The Spaniard has made more line-breaking passes than any other player in the Champions League this term (100), while his 306 successful passes in the opposition half are at least 48 more than any other player (former teammate Ilkay Gündoğan has 258).
With City injury-free and in ominous form, Copenhagen will have to stay resolute and wait for their opportunity to break, with the holders averaging 70.4% possession in their Champions League games this season. There are only five instances on record (since 2003-04) of a team averaging more than that in a single campaign, with four of those being posted by Guardiola teams (Barcelona in 2009-10, 2010-11, and 2011-12, Bayern in 2015-16).
Copenhagen aren’t just here to make up the numbers though, as they proved by finishing above Galatasaray and Manchester United to qualify from Group A. Jacob Neestrup’s men even earned a goalless draw against Bayern in November, so City would be wise not to take them lightly.
The Danish Superliga champions are appearing in the Champions League knockout stages for just the second time, having suffered a 2-0 aggregate defeat to Chelsea in the last 16 back in 2010-11. Copenhagen were last in league action in early December, with a long winter break giving them time to stew on back-to-back defeats to Viborg and AGF, which left them third in the table.
However, they might just relish their underdog role and are well-versed in playing on the break. Across the Champions League’s group stage, only three teams allowed their opponents more passes per defensive action than Copenhagen (16.8 PPDA), and only four began their sequences closer to their own goal than the Danes’ average of 39.2 metres.
In 18-year-old forward Roony Bardghji, meanwhile, Copenhagen can call upon one of Europe’s most in-demand wonderkids, and he is eyeing a piece of history on Tuesday.
Bardghji scored the winner as Copenhagen recorded a stunning 4-3 victory over Manchester United in November, and he could now become just the second teenager to net against two different English clubs in the Champions League after Kylian Mbappé (Man City and Liverpool). No teenager has ever achieved that feat in a single season.
FC Copenhagen vs Manchester City Head-to-Head
This will be the fifth meeting between the teams, with Copenhagen yet to record a single victory against City (two draws, two defeats).
However, they have drawn both of their previous home matches against the Citizens, 2-2 in the 2008-09 UEFA Cup and 0-0 in last season’s Champions League group stage.
Indeed, City have never won an away game against Danish opponents in major European competition, also losing at Aalborg BK in the UEFA Cup in 2009. They did, however, win 1-0 at FC Midtjylland in 2008-09 UEFA Cup qualifying.
Danish sides have lost all three of their previous European Cup/Champions League home games against reigning European champions by an aggregate score of 12-0.
Køge BK lost 5-0 to Bayern in 1976, Aalborg were beaten 3-0 by Man Utd in 2008 and FC Nordsjælland were thrashed 4-0 by Chelsea in 2012.
FC Copenhagen vs Manchester City Recent Form
City have won their last eight Champions League games, the longest winning run recorded by an English club in European Cup/Champions League history. The last team to enjoy a longer winning streak in the competition was Bayern, who won 15 straight between 2019 and 2020.
However, City haven’t always impressed on their travels in Europe.
Indeed, despite winning the competition last season, City have not won any of their last five away games in the Champions League’s knockout stages, drawing four and losing one since beating Sporting CP 5-0 in the last 16 in 2021-22. Copenhagen ended the group stage with back-to-back home wins over United and Galatasaray, but across all competitions, they have lost three of their last five at Parken Stadium (two wins).
Opta Power Rankings
The Opta Power Rankings are a global team ranking system that assigns an ability score to over 13,000 domestic football teams on a scale between zero and 100, where zero is the worst-ranked team in the world and 100 is the best team in the world.
Ahead of kick-off on Tuesday, here is the Opta Power Ranking for both sides.
FC Copenhagen vs Manchester City Prediction
Across 10,000 match simulations conducted by the Opta supercomputer ahead of kick-off, City beat Copenhagen in 71.0% of scenarios.
That is easily the highest win probability given to any team for this week’s first set of knockout fixtures, ahead of Bayern, who have a 56.7% chance of winning their first leg at Lazio.
Copenhagen are given just an 11.3% chance of a surprise win, while the likelihood of a draw is rated at 17.7%. The hosts would surely be content to simply remain in the tie ahead of the return fixture at the Etihad Stadium.
FC Copenhagen vs Manchester City UCL Squads
FC Copenhagen: Kamil Grabara, Theo Sander, Rúnar Rúnarsson, Kevin Diks, Denis Vavro, David Khocholava, Christian Sørensen, Nicolai Boilesen, Peter Ankersen, Birger Meling, Scott McKenna, Viktor Claesson, Magnus Mattsson, Mohamed Elyounoussi, Lukas Lerager, Diogo Gonçalves, Jordan Larsson, Andreas Cornelius, Khouma Babacar, Elias Achouri, Rasmus Falk.
Head Coach: Jacob Neestrup.
Manchester City: Stefan Ortega, Ederson, Scott Carson, Kyle Walker, Rúben Dias, John Stones, Nathan Aké, Sergio Gómez, Joško Gvardiol, Manuel Akanji, Mateo Kovačić, Jack Grealish, Rodri, Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Matheus Nunes, Phil Foden, Erling Haaland, Jérémy Doku, Julián Álvarez.
Head Coach: Pep Guardiola.