Manchester City vs Red Star Belgrade
Etihad Stadium forms the backdrop for a lopsided Champions League encounter between reigning holders Manchester City and Serbian minnows Red Star Belgrade.
Manchester City’s Champions League title defense begins in the midst of a purple patch, with Pep Guardiola’s high-flyers winning all five Premier League matches this season, including a come-from-behind 3-1 victory at West Ham last weekend. Odds-on favorites to finish atop Group G, which also features RB Leipzig and Young Boys, the ‘Citizens’ enter their 13th successive Champions League campaign with lofty ambitions, especially after conquering the UEFA Super Cup in August. Since it’s been five years since Guardiola’s men last lost a European fixture on home soil (W24, D2 since), it’s no wonder they come into proceedings as hot favorites to start on the front foot. Any possible victory could yield a high margin, as was the case in a scintillating 5-1 romping of Fulham in their last outing at the Etihad.
Meanwhile, visiting Red Star Belgrade will return to Europe’s elite table after a three-year absence following a sixth consecutive Serbian Super Liga title last season. But new manager Barak Bakhar has a point to prove after overseeing two wins in his last three league fixtures against sub-par domestic rivals (W1). For comparison, Red Star won the title in 2022/23 without losing a single league match, suggesting the Israeli tactician could already be feeling the heat. Manchester is not a place to embark on recovery, and with Red Star going winless on seven of their last eight European travels (D2, L5), that’s unlikely to happen.