The Hague — 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 on Wednesday.
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 at the weekend, but their opponents came dangerously close to scoring more goals — a fact that no doubt will play on coach Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s mind.
The Rotterdam club faced a further blow after striker Nicolai Jorgensen came off with a leg-muscle injury 21 minutes into the Heracles game.
The Danish international — 2016’s Eredivisie top scorer with 21 goals in 32 games — will not play in the City match that opens their Group F campaign.
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 £200m over the off-season 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.
Liverpool are eager to put behind the heavy Premier League loss to Manchester City and bounce back in their Champions League game against Sevilla on Wednesday, goalkeeper Simon Mignolet said.
Liverpool will return to the Champions League group stages after a three-year absence from the competition and Mignolet said the team was focusing on the positives.
"We have to take the first 20 minutes and how we played before the international break and take it into the next game," Mignolet said. "Of course, we can’t neglect the performance after that — we have to keep it in mind — but we have another game midweek when we can prove ourselves again."
Senegal international Sadio Mane, who will serve a three-match domestic ban after receiving a direct red in the match against City, was likely to feature in the midweek game, while Brazilian playmaker Philippe Coutinho could make his first start of the campaign.
Coutinho missed Liverpool’s opening league fixtures and their Champions League qualifiers due to a back injury, but featured in Brazil’s 2018 World Cup qualifying matches.
"We thought it best to give him three or four days proper training and then he’ll be available for us," manager Juergen Klopp said. "Phil is a fantastic player and hopefully we can use him as quickly as possible."