Man City meets fading Juventus in Europa League
Manchester City meets Juventus in the Europa League on Thursday in the sort of match the English club’s billionaire owners want to see their team play regularly.
The match is one of 24 on Thursday in the group stage of what may be Europe’s second-tier tournament, but Juventus’ reputation is illustrious enough to excite fans and players.
Twice European champion, Juventus has history and status on its side despite City’s recently found wealth.
"City is proof of how big-name signings and big spending, almost ?100 million if I am not mistaken, is not enough to obtain great results," Juventus defender Marco Motta said. "But it’s clear that they are a rival that has all of our respect and we will have to be on guard."
Juventus is ninth in Serie A after just two wins in five games under new coach Luigi Del Neri and drew 3-3 with unheralded Lech Poznan in its opening Europa League match.
"We are trying to adapt with the arrival of at least 10 new elements this summer," Motta said. "To assemble the newcomers takes time."
City is fourth in the Premier League after six games and domestic success is its immediate priority, but the club has not won a major trophy since 1976 so any silverware would be welcome.
"Once we can put that to bed, it will be the start of something big," assistant manager Brian Kidd said. "Winning is intoxicating. When you get your first trophy, you want more."
Germany defender Jerome Boateng could start for City for the first time, boosting a side coming off a surprise 1-0 win over Premier League leader Chelsea. Right back Micah Richards could also return from a hamstring injury.
Liverpool, the other English team in the competition, opened with a 4-1 win over Steaua Bucharest.
The five-time European champions are at FC Utrecht on Thursday without a win in three matches, but it has won all five of its games in Europe under new coach Roy Hodgson and has lost only once in six visits to the Netherlands.
Hodgson is likely to play a strong side, including Spain striker Fernando Torres, but captain Steven Gerrard has been rested.
"It’s on my mind to play Torres, Raul Meireles and Dirk Kuyt on Thursday," Hodgson said. "They’re knitting together well."
Steaua, European champion in 1986, hosts Napoli with a new coach at the helm after Marius Lacatus was hired as replacement for Ilie Dumitrescu, who resigned last week. Lacatus’ third spell in charge began with a 1-0 loss at Otelul Galati on Sunday.
Three other former European champions – FC Porto, Borussia Dortmund and PSV Eindhoven – are also in action, while defending champion Atletico Madrid hosts Bayer Leverkusen in the teams’ first ever meeting.
Atletico, which beat Fulham in last season’s final, lost its opener 1-0 at lowly Aris two weeks ago but is unbeaten in 14 home matches in Europe’s second-tier tournament. The Spanish side is without center back Diego Godin, who is out for three weeks with a knee injury.
Leverkusen coach Jupp Heynckes returns to Spain having previously coached Atletico’s city rival Real Madrid.
"I know and follow Spanish football," Heynckes said. "The Atletico team are well organized, play creative football and are good defensively – it was not always like that."
Villarreal, which is second in the Spanish league after four straight victories, looks to bounce back from a 2-0 defeat to Dinamo Zagreb in its opening Group D match when it hosts Club Bruges.
"It’s clear we need to win, because to get through we need to get more than 10 points," Villarreal coach Juan Carlos Garrido said.
Dortmund has climbed to second place in the Bundesliga thanks to five wins in a row and hosts Sevilla, which hired Gregorio Manzano as its new coach on Monday after Antonio Alvarez was fired following a poor run of results.
Sevilla, which won Europe’s second-tier competition in 2006 and ’07, began Group J play with a 1-0 defeat to Paris Saint-Germain.
Porto travels to CSKA Sofia in Group L and PSV is at FC Metalist Kharkiv in Group I.