City ready to win CL: Villas-Boas; holders Bayern face Lokomotiv - GulfToday

City ready to win CL: Villas-Boas; holders Bayern face Lokomotiv


Marseille’s players attend a training session on the eve of their Champions League match against Manchester City. Agence France-Presse

Marseille coach Andre Villas-Boas said on Monday Manchester City are “a machine ready to win the Champions League”, on the eve of the two teams’ group-stage meeting.

City have never reached the Champions League final and are yet to even reach the semi-finals in four attempts under Pep Guardiola.

“(City) are a machine ready to win the Champions League,” said Villas-Boas. “They may not be at their best level, their coach admitted that.

“That’s why I allow myself to say that, but they are still at a higher level than us and remain the favourites tomorrow (Tuesday).”

City, who relinquished their Premier League title last season to Liverpool, have only won twice in five league games this season.

Marseille, the only French club to win the European Cup, are playing their first Champions League campaign since 2013-14, when they were knocked out in the group stage.

They lost their Group C opener to Olympiakos last week but have made a solid start in Ligue 1 and are only three points behind the pace-setting Paris Saint-Germain and Lille.

Dimitri Payet has only scored once this season, and Villas-Boas admitted he needs his star winger to find form.

“Dimitri (Payet) is a key player. We have spoken and we both know he can do better,” said the former Chelsea and Tottenham coach.

“But it does not only depend on him, also on the team, which must help raise his level. He needs to rediscover what he brought to the team last season.”

City came from behind to beat Porto 3-1 last week in Manchester, but Guardiola will likely make at least one change to that team, with Kevin De Bruyne fit again and Sergio Aguero struggling with a muscle problem.

Villas-Boas admitted he cannot know what to expect from Guardiola, who has been criticised for tinkering tactically in Europe.

“Pep is able to create surprises, and the problem with City is that they have several dynamics and they can adapt. For us, however, this is not a game for experimenting.”

Meanwhile,  Bayern Munich forward Thomas Mueller said on Monday the Champions League holders are “happy to be playing in our competition again” ahead of their group-stage game at Lokomotiv Moscow.

Bayern visit the Russian capital on Tuesday looking to build on a 4-0 thrashing of Atletico Madrid in last week’s Group A opener.

“We’re happy to be playing in our competition again,” Mueller told a pre-match press conference.

“We want to continue the flow we currently find ourselves in. We’re confident, the team is in form, the omens are positive.”

Bayern, who have won their last six matches in all competitions, have reached the Champions League knockout stage in each of the last 12 seasons.

“Bayern are always among the favourites, we are always in the mix in spring,” added Mueller, who has won the European Cup twice with the Bavarian giants.

“At the moment, we feel very, very strong, but that won’t help us in March and April when it comes to the knockout stage. However, I have faith in the club and the team.”

Lokomotiv had to settle for a 2-2 draw at Salzburg last week before suffering a shock defeat in the Russian Premier League by Rotor Volgograd.

But Bayern boss Hansi Flick warned his side not to be complacent against a team who finished bottom of their group last season and in the 2018-19 campaign.

“(Lokomotiv) are one of the most in-form teams in the Russian league,” he said.

“They have conceded the fewest goals and have some great attacking players in (Fedor) Smolov and Eder. We need to stay alert and focused.”

Lokomotiv coach Marko Nikolic said his side would go into the game with a point to prove.

“Our attitude is good. We are facing the best team in Europe, so what kind of attitude can we have? We are very happy for a chance to play against such opponents,” he said.

“Scepticism is always there, but it’s not my job to answer the critics who don’t believe in us.”

The other match in Group A on Tuesday sees Atletico host Salzburg.


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