THE HAGUE (AFP) – Pep Guardiola’s rampant Manchester City will be keen to keep the momentum going as they open the hunt for Champions League glory against a diminished Feyenoord in Rotterdam tonight.
After mauling Liverpool 5-0 in the Premier League on Saturday, City now travel to face the Dutch champions – who face a daunting prospect after a 15-year absence from the group stage of the competition.
Eyes in particular will be on City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne, whose sublime form played a major part in the Liverpool drubbing and who is sure to sniff out and exploit weaknesses in Feyenoord’s midfield and defence.
Feyenoord may have beaten Heracles 4-2 in a Dutch top-flight match over the weekend, but their opponents came dangerously close to scoring more goals – a fact no doubt that will play on coach Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s mind.
The Rotterdam club faced a further blow up front after leading striker Nicolai Jorgensen came off with a leg muscle injury 21 minutes into the Heracles game.
The 26-year-old Danish international – last year’s Eredivisie top scorer with 21 goals in 32 games – will not play in the City match which opens their Group F campaign, Feyenoord announced on Monday.
With Jorgensen out, former Dutch skipper and Arsenal midfielder Van Bronckhorst will now have to draw on every ounce of Premier League experience if he is to try and outfox Guardiola’s team.
City have spent more than £200 million over the summer strengthening their squad after losing to Monaco in the last 16 last season.
De Bruyne told British media on Monday, “The guys who have come in have a very physical quality, they are very strong, very pacy. They make the pitch big, that is a quality of them and it is difficult for the other teams.”
Meanwhile, Feyenoord winger Steven Berghuis said he expected it to be a tough night for the hosts, European Cup winners in 1970.
“It’s going to be tough to stay standing against this club (Manchester City),” Berghuis told daily tabloid De Telegraaf.
“The only thing we can do is to try to make them pay a price and play a game with lots of energy.”
The odds overwhelmingly favour a City win, although the last time they visited Dutch soil they lost 3-1 to Ajax in the group stage in 2012.
The match will be played at the daunting De Kuip (The Tub) stadium in front of thousands of fanatical Feyenoord fans called ‘The Legion’.