Returning to his former stomping ground without a shred of sentiment, Pep Guardiola leads his Manchester City team out for the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final with Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena on Wednesday night.
The action on the field at the Etihad Stadium was striking enough without Sadio Mane allegedly striking Leroy Sane in the face after the final whistle, as a faltering Bayern Munich side were served a slice of humble pie to leave their continental dreams hanging by the thinnest of threads.
So far, Bayern Munich’s brash decision to part ways with Julian Nagelsmann has not been vindicated, as Tuchel has won just two of his first five games at the helm, and Bayern have just one clean sheet to show from their last seven matches. However, it has been over three years since the hosts failed to score in a competitive fixture at the Allianz Arena – since drawing 0-0 with RB Leipzig in February 2020.
Guardiola’s sky blue juggernaut is in full swing, with Man City travelling to the Allianz Arena on the back of their 10th successive win across all competitions – going unbeaten in their last 14 – and they have netted at least three goals in each of their last six fixtures.
Rival territory was not kind to Man City during the group stages, and Bayern’s affinity for goals at the Allianz Arena should at least lead to a flicker of hope for Tuchel’s side, which may quickly be extinguished.
The Champions League-winning nous in Bayern’s ranks counted for nought at the Etihad, and it should be a similar story against Man City’s well-rested and goal-happy crop, as they stroll into the final four with a comprehensive beating of the Bavarians.
Enduring a six-game winless run in all tournaments before visiting Benfica’s fortified headquarters, expectations were low for the Nerazzurri in last week’s first leg, but a pair of crosses did the damage for Inzaghi’s men during a steadfast showing.
Knockout competitions have been Inter’s speciality this season, as Inzaghi’s side also prepare to take on Derby d’Italia foes Juventus in the second leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final later this month, but they have flattered to deceive in the top flight and went down 1-0 to regional rivals Monza at the weekend
Taking just one point from their last five Serie A matches means that the Nerazzurri are playing catch-up in the top-four face – sitting fifth in the rankings and two points adrift of fourth-placed AC Milan.
Benfica have gone unbeaten in each of their last seven Champions League away games (excluding qualifying), but defeat in the first leg means that the Portuguese giants have failed to win any of their four meetings with Inter, with the only previous showdown at San Siro in 2004 ending in a 4-3 Nerazzurri success in the UEFA Cup.
The return of Otamendi will also add another layer of steel to a Benfica side who tend to travel well in Europe, but the Eagles’ morale levels are arguably as low as Inter’s right now, and Inzaghi’s cup specialists can force a low-scoring draw to set up an all-Italian semi-final with Napoli or Milan.
Champs League final venue ‘could be moved due to rising concerns over political unrest in Istanbul’
Rising concerns over political unrest in Turkey could see the Champions League final change venue for the third time in as many years, according to reports.
However, plans in place should a contingency option be needed, with the Turkish presidential elections set to take place a month before the Ataturk Stadium in Istanbul plays host to the competition’s showpiece final.
Istanbul was due to host the final twice in the last three years, but COVID concerns intervened on both occasions.
And just a year later, the Turkish capital as set to at last welcome both Chelsea and Manchester City.
However, COVID cases surged and Turkey was placed on the UK’s red list, and given that both sides would therefore have issues making the trip, it was once more moved to Portugal, this time to Porto.
Last season’s clash between Liverpool and Real Madrid was slated to be played in St. Petersburg, before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the resulting sporting isolation necessitated a move to Paris and the Stade de France.
That match saw a bidding process to determine where the final would be played, although it is unlikely that a similar situation will arise this year given the shorter window of time between the election and the final.
A closer than anticipated election is anticipated – with support for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan‘s autocratic reign believed to be waning – which could increase the likelihood for strife in the Turkish capital.