Manchester City open their UEFA Champions League title defence against Crvena Zvezda at the Etihad Stadium. Will they make a strong start to their Group G campaign? We look ahead to Tuesday’s game with our Manchester City vs Crvena Zvezda prediction and preview.

Manchester City vs Crvena Zvezda: The Quick Hits

  • The Opta supercomputer is very confident in Manchester City’s chances of victory against Crvena Zvezda, giving them a 90.3% probability of starting their UEFA Champions League campaign with three points.
  • Crvena Zvezda have lost all six of their previous away games in the Champions League, conceding 22 goals and only scoring twice.
  • Erling Haaland was the Champions League’s top scorer with 12 goals last season, but he is enduring his longest goal drought in the competition, going three games without scoring.

Match Preview

After several false dawns and heartbreaking eliminations, Manchester City finally completed their ascent to the summit of the European game last season. Now comes the hard part as Pep Guardiola’s men look to defend their UEFA Champions League crown, starting with Tuesday’s meeting with Crvena Zvezda, who some may know as Red Star Belgrade.

Outside of Real Madrid’s run of three successive titles between 2015-16 and 2017-18, no other team has retained European football’s top prize since AC Milan lifted the trophy in 1988-89 and 1989-90, in its former guise as the European Cup. Man City are seen as the team to beat this season, however, with the Opta supercomputer giving them a 38.9% chance of winning the tournament and a huge 98.5% chance of qualifying from a group that also contains RB Leipzig and Young Boys.

It’s easy to see why. Rodri’s goal in Istanbul was enough to hand City victory in June’s Champions League final against Inter, stretching their unbeaten run in the competition to 13 games (W8 D5). That is the longest such streak recorded by one of Guardiola’s teams since Barcelona went 16 without losing between March 2011 and April 2012.

City have reached the knockout rounds in each of their last 10 Champions League campaigns, and they will be supremely confident of extending that run after starting the Premier League season in ominous form. Saturday’s 3-1 victory at West Ham means they have won their first five matches of a league campaign for just the fifth time in their history (also 1897-98, 1912-13, 2015-16 and 2016-17.)

Recent arrival Jérémy Doku joined Bernardo Silva and Erling Haaland on the scoresheet at the weekend, and the Belgian will hope to keep his place in the starting lineup on Tuesday. Jack Grealish remains doubtful due to a muscle injury, having played a key role in last season’s continental triumph. His total of 35 chances created throughout the 2022-23 tournament is the most on record by an English player in a single edition (since 2003-04).

John Stones and Mateo Kovacic are also doubtful, while Kevin De Bruyne is a long-term absentee. City can rely on Haaland to lead the line, however, after the Norwegian top-scored with 12 goals in the Champions League last season. He did fail to net in the last three games of City’s run, however, so he is looking to end his longest Champions League goal drought to date on Tuesday.

Erling Haaland xG Champions League 22-23

Only once in the last 28 seasons have the Champions League holders lost their opening group-stage match, with Liverpool going down 2-0 at Napoli in 2019-20. That demonstrates the scale of the task facing Crvena Zvezda.

The Serbian giants have as many European crowns as City, winning the penultimate edition of the European Cup in 1990-91, but they have struggled in Europe in recent years. They finished bottom of a group containing Tottenham, Bayern Munich and Olympiacos when they last qualified for the Champions League proper in 2019-20, losing five of their six games.

They qualified for the group stage by going unbeaten in the Serbian SuperLiga to clinch their sixth successive domestic title last season. Boss Miloš Milojević left after that triumph, and while his replacement Barak Bakhar has led them to five wins from seven games this term, Saturday’s defeat to FK Čukarički left them four points adrift of the summit.

They will pin their hopes on Ivory Coast forward Jean-Philippe Krasso, who has eight goal involvements (six goals, two assists) in seven league games this season, while Peter Olayinka and Vladimir Lučić should offer support from wide areas.

Manchester City vs Crvena Zvezda Head-to-Head

This will be the very first meeting between the teams in European competition. Indeed, it will be the first time Man City have faced Serbian opposition at all.

Crvena Zvezda have a poor record on English soil, only winning on one of 11 visits in all competitions (four draws, six defeats). That triumph came against Liverpool in the 1973-74 European Cup.

Tuesday’s game will represent the first time Crvena Zvezda have faced the reigning champions in the European Cup or Champions League.

However, in what could be a positive omen for City, they have faced the eventual winners in both of their previous Champions League campaigns, taking on Liverpool in 2018-19 and Bayern Munich in 2019-20.

Recent Form

Manchester City are unbeaten in their last nine competitive games (W7 D2), though they were beaten in a penalty shootout by Arsenal in the FA Community Shield last month.

Their last European outing saw them held 1-1 by Sevilla in the UEFA Super Cup, though Haaland, Julián Álvarez, Kovacic, Grealish and Kyle Walker all converted in a shootout to hand them the trophy.

Crvena Zvezda have lost all six of their away games in the Champions League to date, conceding 22 goals and only scoring twice.

Two of those reverses came in England, with Liverpool beating the Serbian side 4-0 in 2018-19 before Tottenham thrashed them 5-0 the following season.

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.

Manchester City vs Crvena Zvezda Prediction

Manchester City vs Crvena Zvezda Prediction UCL

The Opta supercomputer is not holding out much hope for the visitors, assigning City a 90.3% chance of victory on Tuesday before kick-off – the highest of any team in action on Matchday 1.

Crvena Zvezda are given just a 3.2% chance of a famous victory, while the likelihood of a draw is only rated at 6.5%.

Manchester City vs Crvena Zvezda UCL Squads

Manchester City: Stefan Ortega, Ederson, Scott Carson, Kyle Walker, Rúben Dias, John Stones, Nathan Aké, Sergio Gómez, Joško Gvardiol, Manuel Akanji, Kalvin Phillips, Mateo Kovačić, Jack Grealish, Rodri, Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Matheus Nunes, Phil Foden, Erling Haaland, Jérémy Doku, Julián Álvarez.

Head Coach: Pep Guardiola.

Crvena Zvezda: Zoran Popović, Omri Glazer, Nikola Vasiljević, Kosta Nedeljković, Miloš Degenek, Uroš Spajić, Aleksandar Dragović, Nemanja Milunović, Milan Rodić, Nasser Djiga, Mirko Ivanić, Marko Stamenic, Jovan Šljivić, Guélor Kanga, Aleksandar Katai, Kings Kangwa, Osman Bukari, Srdjan Mijailović, Vladimir Lučić, Andrija Maksimović, Inbeom Hwang, Uroš Kabić, Stefan Mitrović, Cherif Ndiaye, Peter Olayinka, Jean-Philippe Krasso, Jovan Mijatović.

Head Coach: Barak Bakhar

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