Man City face cold front from fans for Kiev visit
Manchester City fear they will be playing in front of a half-empty Eastlands for tonight's Europa League clash with Dynamo Kiev following Uefa's decision to impose a 6.0 kick-off.
Roberto Mancini's team must overturn a 2-0 first-leg deficit against the Ukrainian side to reach the quarter-finals.
But with the fixture being City's seventh home game in 25 days, a combination of tight finances among supporters, the unusual kick-off time and the prospect of an expensive trip to Wembley for next month's FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United have led to the prospect of the club's lowest attendance of the season, despite packages such as a £45 family ticket for two adults and two children.
Ordinarily the match would be expected to attract a crowd in excess of 40,000, but City are expecting around 24,000.
A City spokesperson said: "The kick-off time will make it difficult for many supporters to attend, particularly those who might need to take half a day off work.
"We are also mindful of the number of homes games in recent weeks and our pricing policy for this and other games reflects that."
Uefa have staggered the kick-off times of tonight's Europa League ties -- as they have all season -- with four starting at 6.0 and four at 8.05, to enable television rights holders to screen back-to-back games. In the previous round, Liverpool were forced to play Sparta Prague at Anfield at 6.0, prior to City's 8.05 kick-off at home to Aris Salonika.
City have been left without a third of their regular match-day stewards this evening. They have had to recruit temporary stewards to replace more than 100 regular match-day staff who are unable to get to Eastlands in time.
The decision to stage the game in the middle of the rush hour has been criticised by City supporters.
Dave Wallace, editor of the 'King of the Kippax' fanzine, said: "It's a bad time to play a game of football, but the club aren't to blame for this.
"It has been dictated by Uefa and the television companies, but this is the price fans have to pay for playing in European competitions.
"It will affect the crowd, which is a shame. If people are working or don't live in Manchester, they are going to find it very difficult to get to the game."
On the pitch, City face a battle to progress to the quarter-finals following last week's defeat in Kiev and Mancini is likely to be without the injured Nigel de Jong and Argentine full-back Pablo Zabaleta, who has returned to South America because of a family illness.
England winger Adam Johnson, sidelined for 12 games because of an ankle injury, is close to a return, but Mancini does not expect him to be fit until after the international break.
Despite the advantages of elimination from the Europa League in terms of easing City's workload as they attempt to progress to the FA Cup final and qualify for the Champions League, Mancini insists his players will go out to beat Kiev.
"I don't remember ever coming back from 2-0 down in Europe and I think that 2-0 is very difficult," he said.
"But we should play to win and go into the quarters. I always want to win and to try and go to the quarter-final. That should be our mentality always." (© Daily Telegraph, London)
Man City v Dynamo Kiev,
Live, Setanta Ireland/ESPN, 6.0