Local confidence was flowing as lavishly as the beer as Bavaria's Oktoberfest swung into action last night but Manchester City's Yaya Touré has brushed aside Bayern Munich's nine straight wins, in which their net has not been disturbed, to declare that his own side are already among the pantheon of great sides in this season's Champions League.
Touré is the individual who can offer perspective where Europe's elite competition is concerned – he won it, with Barcelona in 2009 – and it is City's marquee display of this season – the 5-1 win at Tottenham – which cements his view that Roberto Mancini's side travel to the Allianz Arena at the very least as equals. "I don't think there is a big space between us and the top teams in this competition," Touré said. "You look at the game at Tottenham, we played fantastically. They [Spurs] are a big team and did well in the Champions League last year, I think they got to the quarter-finals, so that shows we have a fantastic squad and for me this year we can do well. I'm just pleased we are in it. We can do fantastically well this year."
Mancini may give Edin Dzeko and Samir Nasri a rest – both looked like they needed one against Everton on Saturday – with James Milner and Carlos Tevez contenders to start as City seek to achieve what Manchester United have failed to secure in their four matches at Bayern: a victory. "This game we need to win," Mancini said last night, conscious that an excellent opening triumph in Villarreal for Jupp Heynckes' side means they will open up a serious gulf ahead of City if his side fail to make an impact before 61,000 fans. The Bavarians are buoyed not only by their Bundesliga form, with Manuel Neuer dominating his goal after a slightly inauspicious start, but by the fervent desire to be present when the Champions League final is hosted at their vast stadium on 19 May.
Touré pointed to the Champions League experience in the City ranks and Pablo Zabaleta was also bullish yesterday, despite the nervous opening 1-1 draw at home to Napoli. "We are ready to beat any team," he said.
Mancini arrives with his own professional judgment well intact, Heynckes having asserting yesterday that Jerome Boateng – the player who left City for Bayern this summer having been given only 16 starts last season – has been "unable to consistently perform at the highest level so far". The Belgian Daniel van Buyten, who made five league appearances for City on loan from Marseilles in 2003/04, may again start instead of Boateng tonight.
It served Heynckes well to talk City up and reduce the pressure. "Manchester City are currently on a par with Manchester United, and that says enough really," he declared. "They are a top European team."
But a more accurate sense of the local self belief was left to Franck Ribery, who is bang in form with three goals, plus four assists in six games. "Only Barcelona are a great team, but we are getting close to them," he said yesterday. "We are not too far away and anything is possible in one or two games. Since I arrived here, I have never seen as strong a Bayern team as the one we have now. If we carry on playing the way we are, then nobody can stop us." Not even Touré matched that conviction. "It's very hard work to win this competition," he concluded. "I don't think we should say we can win it with teams like Barcelona around." Former Chelsea flyer Arjen Robben destroyed United two years ago, with Sir Alex Ferguson's side eliminated from the competition. Don't let City say they have not been warned.
Group A details
* Results so far Manchester City 1-1 Napoli, Villarreal 0-2 Bayern Munich.
* Remaining fixtures: 27 Sep Bayern Munich v Manchester City, Napoli v Villarreal. 18 Oct Manchester City v Villarreal, Napoli v Bayern Munich. 2 Nov Bayern Munich v Napoli, Villarreal v Manchester City. 22 Nov Bayern Munich v Villarreal, Napoli v Manchester City. 7 Dec Manchester City v Bayern Munich, Villarreal v Napoli.
Three key confrontations: Where tonight's match will be won or lost
Franck Ribéry v Micah Richards
Richards, who has always been a dynamic attacking force, has faced questions over his ability to keep in step with the movement of an intelligent winger. Ribéry, gifted and dangerous, could well tease Richards – short of Champions League experience – all over the left flank.
Bastian Schweinsteiger v David Silva
These two supreme midfielders will battle for control of the space in front of Bayern's back four. Schweinsteiger has muscular authority, but will face a very different opponent in Silva's subtle movements and touches.
Daniel van Buyten v Sergio Aguero
Van Buyten was on loan at City in 2004 but played only five times. He faces a stern test tonight to marshal Sergio Aguero, who has been in electric form so far this season scoring eight goals already.Reuse content