Referee Artur Dias goes to check his pitchside monitor for a possible handball by Riyad Mahrez in the build-up to the goal. A bouncing ball ball brushed his hand before Alvarez teed up Rodri. That’s harsh but “letter of the law” and all that …
Rodri scores with a wonderful strike! Standing outside the penalty area, he’s teed up by Alvaraz and swishes his right foot through the ball to send it arrowing into the top corner.
9 min: CIty enjoy a sustained period of keep ball, their back four and midfield players pinging the ball hither and yon just inside the Copenhagen half. It’s quite hypnotic … until Rodri gives it away.
6 min: Grealish breaks upfield on the counter and plays the ball left to Julian Alvaraz. He pulls the ball across the face of goal and masked Copenhagen goalkeeper Kamil Grabera touches it wide of his far post. Inexplicably, referee Artur Dias awards a goal-kick. That was a good save from Grabera, who was arguably man of the match in his side’s 5-0 reverse at the hands of City last week.
3 min: Wearing a maroon kit that makes it difficult to distinguish him from his teammates in red and black, Ederson misfields a backpass and comes perilously close to scoring a howler of an own goal. Corner for Copenhagen. Nothing comes of it.
2 min: A dipping Kevin De Bruyne cross to the far post is deflected out for a corner. It was a crucial touch as it took the ball away from the head of Ilkay Gundogan, who was lurking with intent.
1 min: With six players on their team aged 20 or under, this is a dauinting task for FC Copenhagen. One of their youngsters, 19-year-old Elias Jelert concedes an early free-kick for a late challenge on Jack Grealish.
1 min: Manchester City kick off, with captain Ilkay Gundogan having won the toss. Their players wear black and red shirts, black shorts and black socks. The players of FC Copenhagen wear white shirts, shorts and socks.
Not long now: The teams are led out on to the Parken pitch by referee Artur Dias and his team of match officials, with the stands a sea of blue and white. Both sets of players line up for the Champions League anthem and kick-off is just a few pre-match formalities and a couple of minutes away.
Pep’s pre-match thoughts: BT Sport ask him how much the weekend fixture against Liverpool influenced his selection of a line-up with five changes from the Southampton game. “Nothing,” he says. “The guys who have been playing are tired, they are fatigued. That’s why we put fresh legs.”
He’s asked how Erling Haaland took the news that he’d be on the bench. “I didn’t speak with him,” says Pep. “I don’t give to my players the decisions we take or the reasons why. They will not understand it because they want to play all the time.” He goes on to add that he wants Julian Alvarez to “be himself because he’s an exceptional player.”
Those teams: Despite scoring 20 goals from 13 starts since joining Manchester City, Erling Haaland drops to the bench, presumably as punishment for the slump in form that yielded a miserable return of just one goal for the striker in City’’s 4-0 win over Southampton at the weekend. Julian Alvarez steps up in the front three, alongside Jack Grealish and Riyad Mahrez. Aymeric Laporte returned to partner Manuel Akanji in central defence, with Joao Cancelo and Sergio Gomez in the full-back roles.
Copenhagen manager Jacob Neestrup makes two changes to the team that drew against Nordsjælland last time out. Valdemar Lund Jensen and Nicolai Boilesen come into his side.
FC Copenhagen: Grabara, Lund Jensen, Khocholava, Boilesen, Jelert, Stamenic, Lerager, Kristiansen, Claesson, Arnar Haraldsson, Daramy.
Subs: Diks, Sorensen, Johannesson, Mukairu, Johnsson, Ankersen, Bardghji, Clem, Ryan.
Manchester City: Ederson, Joao Cancelo, Akanji, Laporte, Gomez, Rodri, Gundogan, Mahrez, De Bruyne, Grealish, Alvarez.
Subs: Dias, Ake, Haaland, Ortega, Bernardo Silva, Carson, Foden, Palmer, Lewis, Wilson-Esbrand.
Jacob Neestrup speaks: “City will undoubtedly have a lot of possession again but hopefully we will have more sequences where we have the ball on our own feet,” said the Copenhagen manager. “Here it is important that we are a little calmer on the ball, because that way we can also take away four to five per cent of their possession and have a slightly closer game than last time. And then we play in Parken in front of our own fans, and of course that also makes a difference. We’ve looked at some of the things we can do better, and at the same time it’s also about limiting what they’re good at.”
Pre-match Pep: “We play one week later and they have pride and they want to perform,” he says of facing Copenhagen in back-to-back Champions League fixtures. “But at the same time, we have a chance to conclude our qualification for the next stage and we are going to try tomorrow.”
Tonight’s match officials
Referee: Artur Dias
Assistant referees: Rui Tavares and Paulo Soares
Fourth official: Fabio Verissimo
Video Assistant Referee: Tiago Martins
With a match against Liverpool to come on Sunday and qualification for the knockout stages all but assured, Pep Guardiola may decide to rest some of his first team staples tonight. Speculation abounds that he may rest Erling Haaland, news that would surely come as music to the ears of Copenhagen’s players, if not the player himself. City are definitely without injured duo Kyle Walker and Kalvin Phillips, while John Stones is also unlikely to feature because of a hamstring injury. Aymeric Laporte could also make his second start of the season in the heart of City’s defence as he ramps up to full fitness following knee surgery.
Copenhagen manager Jacob Neestrup has mounting injury woes and has eight players in total sidelined. Nigerian winger Akinkunmi Amoo and Portuguese captain Zeca remain absent, while defender Denis Vavro, striker Andreas Cornelius and midfielder Rasmus Falk are also among the lame and halt. Only seventh in the Danish league table after 12 games, Copenhagen drew 1-1 with leaders Nordsjælland at the weekend.
Top of the group with maximum points from their three games, victory for Manchester City in Denmark tonight will guarantee them their place in the knockout rounds with two games to spare. The odds are very much in their favour, not least because they swatted Copenhagen aside with the bare minimum of fuss at the Etihad last week and their hosts are bottom of the group table with just one point. Kick-off at the Parken Stadium is at 5.45pm (BST) but stay tuned in the meantime for all the team news and build-up.