Can Manchester City’s current form help them finally end their Champions League drought?
‘Can Manchester City win the Champions League this season?’ It’s a question that is asked every September when the Champions League group stages get underway, and as the knockout phases approach each February it often rises to the forefront again.
Usually, the answer is you’ll receive is; ‘I don’t see why not?’ and it’s a fair response. Given the quality within their ranks and the guidance of Pep Guardiola, it is hard to place your finger on the reason why the iconic big-eared trophy is yet to be paraded around the blue half of Manchester.
With the Round of 16 about to get underway, the final in Istanbul is on the horizon and Man City find themselves amongst the favourites to book their place in Turkey in the Champions League odds and betting, more than familiar territory for the ‘Citizens’ at this stage, yet they have never actually achieved the feat of reaching the tournament’s showpiece.
Bundesliga side Borussia Mönchengladbach were the unlucky outfit to be drawn against Guardiola’s side in the first knockout round, and little is to be expected from the Germans when they go toe-to-toe with the Premier League leaders. After all, they have conceded four goals in two of their last three outing against City and recorded their only victory over the Manchester side back in 1979.
In fact, given Man City’s current form, they probably won’t even need to be at their best to beat Mönchengladbach, who sit seventh in the German top flight, across the two legs.
Guardiola’s men have been on fire recently, and they are not just the in-form team in the Premier League, but arguably across Europe’s top divisions. They have put together an impressive run of 14 successive wins, 10 of which are in the Premier League, and as result they have opened a five-point gap over their nearest rivals Manchester United, and they boast a game in hand.
Of course, City have been in fine domestic form before and not carried it into Europe, so the task for Guardiola now is to ensure that his side brush teams like Mönchengladbach and so on to the wayside as they did against the defending Premier League champions Liverpool recently.
The most frustrating thing for Guardiola over the course of the last couple of campaigns is the level of opposition which have knocked Manchester City out of the Champions League. Last year, they were humbled in a 3-1 defeat to Ligue 1 side Lyon in the quarter-finals, whilst in the year prior it was Tottenham Hotspur who delivered the crucial blow at the same stage before going on beat Ajax and lose to Liverpool in the final.
Some would say that City have been handed the easiest possible route to the
quarter-finals, especially out of the remaining Premier League sides with Liverpool facing RB Leipzig, who are second in the Bundesliga, and Chelsea going head-to-head with La Liga table-toppers Atlético Madrid. However, they can’t approach the tie like they have already won, they need to send a message to Europe’s elite with an emphatic victory.
Looking at the remaining teams, there’s a real possibility that City could be a handed a tough draw in the quarter-finals, but should their form continue then they have the ability to beat any of the remaining teams.
Winning the Champions League has been the main aim of the club’s hierarchy since Sheikh Mansour bought City in 2008, and it’s hard to believe that all this time later they are still waiting on that inaugural title. However, if Guardiola can weave their domestic form into the realms of Europe, then perhaps this could be the year.