Hello and welcome to to Sports Mole
's live text coverage of the Champions League
group-stage tie between Manchester City
at the Etihad Stadium. City are already assured of a place in the last 16 of the competition for a fifth-successive season and are now aiming to secure top spot, while the out-of-form visitors are clinging to hope that they can finish in third, meanwhile, having lost all four Group F matches
so far and conceded 12 goals in the process.
There are a few different permutations heading into tonight's Group F fixtures, although the bottom line is simple - a City victory, combined with anything less than three points for Shakhtar against Napoli, and they will go through as group winners with a game to spare. Home boss Pep Guardiola
hinted that he would rotate his side for tonight's game, potentially meaning a couple of full debuts...
MANCHESTER CITY TEAM NEWS!
STARTING XI: Ederson; Walker, Mangala, Otamendi, Danilo; Gundogan, Yaya Toure, De Bruyne; Sterling, Aguero, Bernardo
SUBS: Bravo, Foden, Delph, D.Silva, Fernandinho, Diaz, Jesus
Starting with a look at the home team, Guardiola has indeed rotated his squad - though perhaps not as much as some would have expected. The Catalan coach hinted that youngsters Ben Foden and Brahim Diaz would start, but they are instead made to wait for their full debuts as they are only among the subs. Foden has yet to feature for the senior side at all; Spain Under-21s international Diaz has 10 minutes under his belt.
Six changes made by Guardiola in all from the 2-0 win over Leicester City last time out - another assured display at the King Power Stadium that kept them well clear at the top of the division. Eliaquim Mangala, Nicolas Otamendi, Danilo, Ilkay Gundogan, Sergio Aguero and Bernardo Silva
all come into the side, meaning that Kyle Walker is the only member of the back four to retain his place from that weekend victory. Ederson, perhaps surprisingly, remains between the sticks.
Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling
are the other two players to retain their places in the starting XI, with the former likely partnering Toure and Gundogan in a three-man midfield, while Sterling will link up with Bernardo Silva and Aguero in the forward line. De Bruyne is just one yellow card from an automatic one-match ban, incidentally - the only City player currently walking a disciplinary tightrope.
Aguero was always likely to get the nod tonight, meanwhile, with Gabriel Jesus named among the subs. The Argentina international netted against Napoli last time out in the Champions League to overtake Eric Brook as City's all-time leading scorer with 177, and his goalscoring form throughout the campaign has been as impressive as ever. Jesus has been just as lively, though, scoring 15 goals in his 21 Premier League outings since arriving earlier this year.
FEYENOORD TEAM NEWS!
STARTING XI: Jones; Van Beek, Haps, Diks, Tapia; Vilhena, Amrabat, Toornstra; Boetius, Larsson, Berghuis
SUBS: Vermeer, St. Juste, Nelom, Nieuwkoop, Jorgensen, Basacikoglu, Kramer
In terms of the visitors, they have been rocked by the absence of striker Nicolai Jorgensen to illness. The Denmark international has been feeling under the weather for the past 24 hours and is only fit enough for a place among the subs, with Jean-Paul Boetius tasked with leading the line in his absence. Sam Larsson will play out on the left, meanwhile, and Steven Berghuis is selected on the opposite side in what is essentially a 4-3-3 hybrid formation.
Karim El Ahmadi is also among the absentees this evening as he is serving a European ban, so Jens Toornstra is handed a starting role in central midfield - a no doubt overworked central midfield, if City's games this term are anything to go by. Brad Jones, who knows English football well from his time at Middlesbrough, Liverpool and an array of other clubs, is handed the captain's armband for the evening.
Elsewhere, Sven van Beek and Ranato Tapia make up the heart of defence and Kevin Diks comes in at right-back, replacing Bart Nieuwkoop who is joined on the bench by Jeremiah St. Juste. Berghuis is one to keep an eye on tonight, having set up three goals for the Netherlands against Romania earlier this month, and he must be careful as he is one yellow away from suspension. Sickness bug victim Jorgensen, recently linked with Wolves, played almost a full part in Denmark's win over Northern Ireland.
A first Champions League start for Eliaquim Mangala since the semi-final meeting with Real Madrid in May 2016. The Frenchman has been overlooked since Pep Guardiola since the Catalan's arrival 16 months ago, but in the absence of John Stones and Vincent Kompany he is given a chance to impress alongside Nicolas Otamendi.
© Getty Images
Pep wanting to get the job done tonight, then, as he opts against throwing in a couple of his younger players. City have still yet to lose a game this term, last doing so some 24 games ago in the FA Cup semi-final, and have been tipped by some to go the whole Premier League campaign unbeaten. That would be a truly remarkable feat, even more impressive than the Arsenal Invincibles in many ways due to the increased competition, but Guardiola is trying his best to play down the hype.
Guardiola was quick to point out in the opening weeks of the season that his side also started well last term before fading away. Unlike then, though, the Citizens have showed no signs of slowing down as winter approaches and, if anything, they look more rounded now than ever before. Sixteen wins and one draw from their first 17 matches of 2017-18 really is remarkable - good enough to see them as the bookies' favourites to win each competition that they have entered.
During their incredible ongoing winning run, City have brushed aside the lesser teams and also carved out victories against the best English football has to offer, with Championship Wolves arguably coming closest to beating them when going all the way to penalties last month. The Citizens now have 13 games in the next 42 days between now and January 2, so Guardiola will have to start rotating his side more and more as we enter the Christmas and New Year period.
One of those games may well be written off as a dead-rubber, should all go to plan over the next couple of hours. That is because City have already done the hard work in Group F, beating Feyenoord in their opener and then seeing off Shakhtar Donetsk and Napoli (twice) to top the standings, with 12 goals scored and just three conceded to emerge as the favourites to win the competition. Not bad for a team that has reached the last four just once before!
Barcelona, Juventus and Real Madrid - the latter being perennial winners of the competition in recent years - may have something to say about that, of course, though Juve and Madrid are struggling domestically and have to get their house in order sharpish. Barca look solid in the Spanish top flight, proving all their pre-season critics wrong by dropping points just once all term so far. Napoli, looking very strong in Italy, are at risk of failing to emerge out of Group F as they have prioritised the league.
It would be wrong to say that it is now or never for City as far as their aspirations of winning this competition go, but it does feel as though the stars are aligning for them to go all the way. The Premier League leaders round off their group-stage campaign with a trip to Shakhtar in a couple of weeks' time - a trip that they will hope is essentially a dead-rubber, although there could well still be plenty riding on that fixture in Ukraine.
Shakhtar, currently second in Group F and three points behind City, head to third-in-the-table Napoli this evening. If they were to win that and the Citizens dropped points against Feyenoord, we will have a straight shootout for top spot on December 6. It is worth remembering that City won the previous fixture between those sides 2-0, so they would have to lose by a greater margin to finish in second. Anyway, for all that to happen would take a pretty remarkable turn of events.
Guardiola's focus may instead be on games against Huddersfield town and Southampton in quick succession over the next eight days, before welcoming West Ham United a few days before that aforementioned trip to Shakhtar. No wonder Guardiola wants to seal things tonight - travelling to Ukraine with a full-strength side, with Manchester United also on the horizon, is the last thing he wants. If all goes to plan tonight, the Citizens can send a second-string side to Donetsk in a fortnight.
These two sides have met on just one previous occasion in UEFA competition, coming in the reverse meeting two months ago. John Stones, Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus all netted for Manchester City in the opening 25 minutes, before Stones added his second before full time - the perfect way to start their 2017-18 European campaign. Feyenoord have played in England 10 times in the past, meanwhile, losing three of the last four - most recently going down 4-0 to Manchester United last season.
Man City have won two of their previous three meetings against Dutch sides, drawing the other game in that run, though they have conceded two goals in each of those. Most recently, they were held 2-2 by Ajax in 2012 when they were still finding their feet in the competition, having previously beaten FC Twente 3-2 twice in a row in the UEFA Cup. The Citizens are currently unbeaten in their last 12 home Champions League matches, meanwhile, winning nine of those since a 2-1 reverse to Juventus in 2015.
That loss to Juve was their fourth in six European matches at the Etihad Stadium, but they have since improved on that record drastically and are now seen as a real force. This is their seventh-successive appearance at this stage, and they have made it through to the knockout stages five times in a row. Only once have they made it as far as the semi-finals, though, when going down 1-0 to eventual champions Real Madrid in 2016 under the guidance of Manuel Pellegrini.
Guardiola was very much brought to the Etihad Stadium with the intention of turning City into a European force, though his first campaign at the helm turned into a real disappointment. The Catalan endured his first trophyless campaign in senior management and admitted that he likely would have been sacked had he still been at Bayern Munich or Barcelona. A summer splurge, strengthening the full-back positions more than anything else, has helped improve City massively, and they look good value to win a trophy or two in 2018.
Tonight's visitors are heading in the opposition direction, however, as they have followed up last term's title-winning success in a disappointing manner. Under the watch of Giovanni van Bronckhorst
, who spent a few years with Rangers and a couple more with Arsenal - helping the Gunners beat City 5-1 in 2003 - they finished top of the pile for the first time in 18 years with a 3-1 win over Heracles on the final day; Dirk Kuyt scoring a hat-trick in that clash at De Kuip before retiring on a high.
They are languishing in seventh place now, however, 14 points off PSV Eindhoven who have dropped points in just one of their 12 matches - same as City, then! Feyenoord started the season well with four-successive wins, including one by a five-goal margin, but one win in eight has followed since September 9. Three draws in a row heading into this fixture may well have already cost them any chance they had of retaining their crown, even with two-third of the campaign left to play.
Throw a 4-1 home defeat to Ajax into the mix and it is fair to say that all is not well in Rotterdam at this moment in time. Overall it is three wins in 14 matches, having lost all four of their previous Champions League matches this term to give them a goal difference of -9, compared to City's +9 - if ever a stat could highlight two sides' contrasting forms. It has not been a great return to the Champions League for them, then, and they will likely also miss out on third place to Napoli as things stand.
DID YOU KNOW?
Feyenoord have lost 11 Champions League games in a row and have just one win in 13 going further back - a 1-0 victory over Newcastle United in September 2002 - how times have changed since then! Away from home in Europe is a similarly bleak tale, as a 3-0 win over Standard Liege in the Europa League in 2014 is their only triumph in 17 attempts since that memorable night at St James' Park 15 years ago.
With kickoff now less than five minutes away at the Etihad Stadium, let us check out some pre-match thoughts from both camps.
Pep Guardiola: "Both [Aguero and Jesus] have different qualities - they deserve to play. They have a lot of games and they have to be ready. It is the toughest decision. Yeah, [they could play together] in the moment we had Mendy. When you have Mendy, he can play wide and the winger can go inside. Fabian Delph cannot do that. Without Mendy, Leroy Sane has to go wide, which is why they don't play together."
Giovanni van Bronckhorst: "The first game we played against them at home, it was an outstanding performance from City. They have only drawn once, against Everton at home. All the other teams couldn't cope with the level they have and the football they are showing. I don't think you will find a person in this room, or Europe or the world even, to say that City are not one of the best teams at the moment."
Guardiola explaining why he feels the need to rotate between Aguero and Jesus, which has worked just fine so far. Two months on from the previous meeting between these two sides, not a great deal has changed as far as City are concerned - they continue to look a real force, winning 16 and drawing one of their 17 matches this term. Another point tonight may be enough to see them through to the last 16 as group winners.
KICKOFF! Dutch visitors Feyenoord get us up and running at a wet and windy Etihad Stadium, backed by a vocal away following. Far from sold-out this evening, with the home fans in attendance hoping for another five-star show.
City the side on top at the moment, looking to find their feet. Not easy for them, with half the team being changed on the back of that 2-0 win at Leicester, but there is still more than enough quality in the side to get the job done.
City unbeaten here in 24 European matches, remember, while Feyenoord have lost 11 in a row (including qualifiers). The form guide also suggests that this one should end with a fairly comfortable win in the home side's favour, too.
The Citizens being allowed to knock the ball around at will, as Feyenoord sit back and soak up the pressure. The visitors counter down the left and look dangerous when Larsson gets on the ball, but he could not get a shot away on goal.
SHOT! Nice ball over the top for De Bruyne to race on to, and he sent in a delightful first-time cross. Sterling did not gamble and the ball was cleared away, with Danilo blasting when from the next opportunity - the first meaningful shot of the game.
City have started well enough as they continue to knock the ball around. De Bruyne popped up in a good position down the right a few moments ago and Danilo has also had a shot - keep this up and they should find the breakthrough soon enough.
Feyenoord already doing better than two months ago, when they were two down by this stage; a third following before the half-hour mark. City still the side probing away, without creating a great deal in the attacking third of the pitch.
Steven Berghuis with a decent attempt from just inside the box, which hits Danilo and goes behind for a corner. The Dutch outfit looking a lot better than that reverse fixture, which they gave a really poor account of themselves.
Brad Jones, captaining Feyenoord tonight, has yet to truly settle. Some dodgy handling and a poor kick-out to put one of his teammates under pressure, but City cannot capitalise. Seventeen minutes played here and still goalless.
Couple of attempts apiece in the opening quarter of the match; Danilo blasting wide at one end and then deflecting Berghuis's attempt wide at the other. Not a great deal between the teams so far, though City do look the more likely to score.
Sterling, one of five outfield players to retain his place in the side from last time out, is nearly in behind by Jones reads the danger well. The visitors defending very well at the moment, forming a compact shape behind the ball.
SAVE! A first shooting chance of the match for Sergio Aguero, who could not really get enough behind the ball from the edge of the box. Right at Brad Jones in the end, with City's best chance of the match so far coming to little.
City have seen close to 70% of possession in the opening 25 minutes at the Etihad Stadium. Truth be told, they have not really looked like scoring so far, but Bernardo Silva did get behind the back moments ago in a promising sign.
Aguero goes to ground far too easily under contact from Amrabat - the referee made the right call by telling him to get back to his feet. Ederson then lucky to avoid a potential red card when bringing down Jean-Paul Boetius on the edge of the box.
Having seen a replay of that Ederson incident again, it really could have done either way. The Brazilian keeper did appear to get a boot to the ball prior to taking out Jean-Paul Boetius, though, so probably the right call.
Good play from City that culminates Aguero slotting the ball through for Gundogan. The German midfielder could not get a clean shot away, however, again thanks to the impressive defending from the visitors - they are standing strong so far.
Liverpool are three goals to the good away to Sevilla, on what is turning out to be a comfortable night for the Reds. A little less pressure on the Citizens tonight, of course, though they are finding the going a little tougher.
CHANCE! A second chance of the evening for Sergio Aguero - again, far from simple, as he heads over from a Kevin De Bruyne cross. It goes without saying that the delivery from the Belgian was delightful from the left-hand side.
SAVE! Pretty much as close as City have come to a goal, as Sterling curls the ball on target. It should have been a straightforward stop, but Jones agains rather flapped at it and was fortunate nobody in blue was nearby.
CHANCE! Sam Larsson not far away at all with his curler, ending fractionally wide of the intended target. Up the other end, Sterling plays in Bernardo Silva, who was far too laid-back with his tame attempt on target from seven yards.
A couple of near-misses at either end of the field, then, in what is looking likely to be a goalless opening 45 minutes in Manchester. The best opening of the game so far fell Bernardo Silva's way; the Portuguese failing to keep his composure from close range.
Tonny Vilhena thought he had a real shout for a penalty when going down under contact from Ederson, but the Brazilian keeper got two hands to the ball before taking out the player down low. Feyenoord have certainly had their moments in this first half.
We are now into the final minute of the first half. City the side in control of possession, as they pretty much have been from the off, though they look unlikely to find a way through before that half-time whistle sounds.
HALF TIME: MANCHESTER CITY 0-0 FEYENOORD
The first half does indeed end goalless. City had the best chance of the opening 45 minutes, which Bernardo Silva failed to take, though Feyenoord have looked solid at the back overall and are just about good value to still be all square.
The form book suggested a clear home win, with City unbeaten in their last 24 matches in all competitions - winning all four in Europe - and the visitors winning just three of their last 14. That was not reflected in the opening 45 minutes, though, of which the Citizens just about had the best chance as Bernardo Silva failed to truly test Brad Jones from close range.
That Silva chance aside, City had to rely on a Sergio Aguero shot from the edge of the box and a wayward header from the same player - who recently became the club's all-time top scorer - in a quiet first half. Jones was also needed to stop a tame Raheem Sterling effort, which he made a mess of by flapping at the ball, while up the other end Sam Larsson curled Feyenoord's best opening wide of the target.
The Rotterdam club, who found themselves three down in the opening 25 minutes of the reverse fixture, looked compact at the back and did venture forward on occasion, with Tonny Vilhena rightly denied a penalty after Ederson won the ball but followed through. All square at the break, then, in what is turning out to be a frustrating match for the Premier League leaders.
MANCHESTER CITY SUBS: Vermeer, St. Juste, Nelom, Nieuwkoop, Jorgensen, Basacikoglu, Kramer
FEYENOORD SUBS: Bravo, Foden, Delph, D.Silva, Fernandinho, Diaz, Jesus
RESTART! We are back under way at the Etihad Stadium, where neither manager has made a change at the break. Phil Foden and Brahim Diaz remain among the back-up options for now, as City seek a breakthrough goal.
No goals in the other Group F match taking place this evening, by the way, so the standings remain as they were. City are top on 13 points; Shakhtar second on 10; Napoli on four in third; and Feyenoord bottom of the pile with this point.
CLOSE! Bernardo Silva with a dangerous delivery across the face of goal, which Sterling was waiting to tap in if not for the interception of Sven van Beek right in front of goal. Almost ended in his own net, but luck was on his side as it climbed over the bar.
City certainly looking a little sharper in the final third since the restart. A good ball into the box from the left is not converted by Aguero, instead seeing De Bruyne race on to the loose ball and hammering it into the stands.
Aguero does this time take the shot on, sending it a fair way over the crossbar. There is a sense that the opening goal will arrive sooner rather than later at the moment, as Guardiola takes a glance at his back-up options.
Incidentally, this is the same midfield setup that failed to find a way past Wolves in the EFL Cup - the only game in which City have failed to score this term. Guardiola must be tempted to change things slightly now, with the hour mark approaching.
YELLOW CARD! Tonny Vilhena is cautioned for a silly challenge. The midfielder is not one of those one booking away from a suspension; Berghuis is, while City's De Bruyne will also miss the next game with a yellow card.
GROUP F UPDATE! There has been a breakthrough in Group F at long last - Lorenzo Insigne has opened the scoring for Napoli against Shakhtar. A big goal that is, too, as that will be enough for City to finish top as things stand.
YELLOW CARD! Mangala was booked a short while ago, while De Bruyne has now also entered the referee's book. The Belgian will now miss out on that trip to Donetsk in a fortnight, which at this rate will be a dead-rubber.
MANCHESTER CITY SUB! Larsson with a good chance to edge his side in front from a free kick, which he sends over the bar from 25 yards out. De Bruyne replaced by Gabriel Jesus, moments after dragging a shot wide of goal.
Man City do not tend to do goalless draws in Europe - none of their previous 40 group-stage matches have ended in a stalemate. With 24 minutes to go in this one, there is no real sign of the Feyenoord goal being breached.
CLOSE! Toure comes as close to opening the scoring as we have seen all night with his free kick from 25 yards, which Jones may well have got the faintest of touches to on its way through. Either way, it remains goalless.
CHANCE! Big, big chance for Feyenoord to open the scoring. Steven Berghuis was in behind, only to be denied by Ederson. Jorgensen has now been brought on - the Dutch side are going for it, with all three points in their sight.
FEYENOORD SUB! A like-for-like change at the back in Feyenoord's second change of the match, bringing on Bart Nieuwkoop for Kevin Diks. Good chance for Aguero to break the deadlock, but he fired wide after bringing the ball down.
MANCHESTER CITY SUB! Phil Foden, a Golden Ball winner with England Under-17s at the World Cup recently, is brought on for his senior City debut. Yaya Toure, double his age at 34, makes way as City go all out for a winner.
Definitely one of the quieter games involving City this term. Only one other goalless draw for them, although on that occasion they could still rack up a win as they came out on top against Wolves via penalties. No chance of that tonight.
It will essentially be job done for City should the Group F scores stay this way for the remaining 12 minutes or so in Manchester and Naples. With a game to go, in what was a fairly tough group, Guardiola will certainly not be complaining.
YELLOW CARD! Jens Toornstra is the fifth player to be booked for his challenge. Free-scoring City looking bereft of ideas at the moment; it is almost certainly going to end in frustration for them, as we enter the final 10 minutes.
FEYENOORD SUB! Berghuis, who has performed well tonight, is replaced by Bilal Basacikoglu to provide some fresh legs in attack. Jesus flicks a near-post corner on, but there was nobody around to meet it.
GROUP F UPDATE! City are on the brink of claiming top spot now, as Piotr Zielinski and Dries Mertens have scored within two minutes of each other to give Napoli a 3-0 lead over Shakhtar Donetsk at Stadio San Paolo.
YELLOW CARD! Jesus takes the ball brilliantly, but is then thwarted by a covering defender. Foden's corner is easily dealt with, and Danilo goes into the book for halting the Feyenoord counter - a vital challenge.
Very disappointing from a City perspective tonight, as they continue to struggle to find any sort of attacking momentum. Again, though, it does not matter all that much in the grand scheme of things - they are going through as Group F winners.
GOAL! MANCHESTER CITY 1-0 FEYENOORD (RAHEEM STERLING)
From pretty much nowhere, Sterling and Gundogan exchange passes and the former brilliantly gets the better of Jones for a fourth goal in four Champions League games. The Citizens have been made to wait, but they can now start celebrating.
MANCHESTER CITY SUB! Brahim Diaz is now on for his second City appearance, taking over from matchwinner Sterling. City can now write off that trip to Shakhtar two weeks from now - ideal, with Man United to play a few days later.
FULL TIME: MANCHESTER CITY 1-0 FEYENOORD
The full-time whistle sounds at the Etihad Stadium, where Manchester City have maintained their winning run of form thanks to Raheem Sterling's late strike. It was a laboured display on the whole, though even a point would have been enough to see them finish top of Group F in the end.
That concludes Sports Mole
's live text coverage of events in this Champions League group-stage fixture. An on-the-whistle report can be found by clicking here
, while reaction from a select few games can be found elsewhere on the site over the next hour or so. Thanks for joining!