Unbeaten Roma are a real threat to Man City
MAN CITY v AS ROMA
(Tomorrow, 2.40am, SingTel mio TV Ch 111)
Manchester City face the second big test of their Champions League campaign at the Etihad Stadium tomorrow morning (SIngapore time).
Having failed the first, they cannot afford to fail again. And the challenge could not be much greater.
Having lost to Bayern Munich a fortnight ago, Manuel Pellegrini's side now face AS Roma, one of the great old names of European football who have been revitalised by French coach Rudi Garcia.
While City have made a stuttering start to their season, Roma have hit the ground at a breakneck sprint.
They annihilated CSKA Moscow 5-1 in their first Champions League game and they beat Verona last Saturday, a 2-0 victory capped by a stunning long-range strike from Mattia Destro and they sit in second place in their league.
Garcia's side would be top of Serie A if it wasn't for the slightly more remarkable start of Juventus under their new coach Massimiliano Allegri.
Both teams have a 100 per cent record, winning all five of their games.
The difference is that Juventus are still yet to concede.
Roma are swiftly becoming accustomed to excellent starts.
Last year, they won their first 10 Serie A games in a row, but were eventually reined in by the Old Lady in her final season under club legend Antonio Conte. This year, the two legendary clubs look set to do battle again.
Roma, whose last Serie A title came in 2001 under Fabio Capello, had stalled before Garcia arrived, finishing just outside the top five for three consecutive seasons.
But the effect of the new coach was instant.
A title winner in France with Lille, where he developed Eden Hazard while simultaneously coaxing the last impressive season out of Joe Cole, Garcia is popular with his players and respected in the dressing room.
Many managers would be intimidated by the presence of 38-year-old Francesco Totti. Garcia gave his career a new lease of life.
It's 21 years since Totti made his debut for Roma, his appearance against Brescia proving the start of a career that would include more than 700 appearances and almost 300 goals.
In that time, he has played many roles for the club he loves, but he has rarely looked as regal as he does in his withdrawn attacking role.
Never a player for whom pace was a key attribute, Totti is the conductor of the orchestra now, floating around, picking up the ball and flicking it into the path of his sprightlier teammates, one of whom will be a familiar face for Arsenal supporters.
Gervinho had a terrible time in London, his ferocious pace only serving to make him appear ungainly and uncoordinated. He's a very different player now.
It would be no exaggeration to say that he is one of the most important components of this Roma side, a deadly forward who will tear City apart given half a chance.
City may also want to keep an eye on the left back, one Ashley Cole, who has settled well into the Italian side.
The last time City beat an Italian team was in 1978 with current assistant manager Brian Kidd scoring in 3-0 win against AC Milan.
This long barren stretch has been formed, of course, primarily because City spent so many years in the doldrums.
Nevertheless, it's a useful indicator of how far City have had to come to reach this point, and a reminder of how far they have to go.
They are not a member of the European elite just yet and, if they lose tomorrow morning, they'll probably have to wait another year to prove their point.
The Italian clubs may not be the force they were in the 1990s, but there are signs of recovery in Serie A if you look in the right places.
For all of City's spending, they will do well to be wary. Roma are a serious threat.
NO FANS, BUT BAYERN STILL UPBEAT
CSKA MOSCOW v BAYERN MUNICH
(Tonight, 11.55pm, SingTel mio TV Ch 111)
A hotel evacuation caused by a fire alarm is not going to knock Bayern Munich off their stride when they face CSKA Moscow in the Champions League tomorrow morning (Singapore time), according to their coach Pep Guardiola.
The team were forced to leave their hotel in the centre of the Russian capital for several hours on Sunday night, but Guardiola has taken the incident lightly.
"It was nothing major," Guardiola (below) said. "We were in the restaurant and some people were having a massage.
"We had to stay out for two hours, but everything was under control."
Bayern can ensure they take control of Group E at the Arena Khimki if they can follow up their last-gasp win over Manchester City in their opening fixture with another three points.
CSKA are regarded as the weakest side in the group, a theory underlined by their 5-1 loss to Roma a fortnight ago, and Bayern know they cannot afford to drop points in this fixture.
"It's a very dangerous and very strong group with Manchester City and Roma," added Guardiola. "We've got a big chance to win.
"If we win, then we can take a small step forward, but nothing is going to be decided until the return game against CSKA."
There will be no fans inside the Arena Khimki due to sanctions imposed for crowd misbehaviour last season.
Given the trouble CSKA followers caused in Rome during their opening game, the chances are the Moscow club will not play a single game in front of their own fans this campaign, which will further complicate matters for the side coached by Leonid Slutski.
"It is a difficult situation for us," said Slutski in Moscow.
"It's not nice when you have to acknowledge that there are teams who are far more talented and on a different level to you.
"We've just got to try to play to our very best and only when the game gets under way will we see if that's enough."
Apart from the long-term injury absentees, Bayern have a fully-fit squad, according to Guardiola.
That does not include Franck Ribery, Javier Martinez, Holger Badstuber, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Thiago Alcantara.
Alan Dzagoev and Pontus Wernblooom are both suspended for the hosts, who were beaten 3-1 at home by Bayern last season. - PA Sport.