European Misadventures: Man City’s Champions League Woes

City loses to Barca in Champs League

Can Manchester City win the Champions League?

This question has been thrown around plenty in recent years. By “recent years”, of course, I mean since 2008, when Sheikh Mansour’s Abu Dhabi United Group (an investment company formed solely for the purpose of purchasing City) swung in out of nowhere to take over and pump millions into the club. By the summer of 2009, they were spending like Johnny Manziel at the club, making it rain on Gareth Barry, Kolo Toure, Emmanuel Adebayor, Carlos Tevez, and more for over 100 million pounds in one summer. In 2012 they finally, and quite dramatically, won the Premier League for the first time since 1968, but still had not whiffed any kind of Champions League success.

Three years on and tons of cash splashed, City has still not reached even the quarterfinals of UEFA’s main competition.

So can they win it all? Of course they can! Just because they haven’t done it doesn’t mean they can’t. As any investor will tell you, past performance is not indicative of future results. At the same time, past performance is all we have to go on — and, when you consider the talent and money this club possesses, City’s European track record is dismal.

In both the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons, they were knocked out of the group stage, failing to win any of their six matches in the latter campaign. The last two Champions League runs have seen them at least advance from their group, even if they were dropped in the next round both times.

Certainly Lady Luck has refused to shine upon City. German powerhouse Bayern Munich has been in their group three of the last four years. Somehow they have drawn Barcelona in the Round of 16 both last season and the year before. That’s some legitimate misfortune. However, their talent and Premier League performance implies they should be one of Europe’s elite clubs. Miserable fortune can only be an excuse for so long.

You could call them the Joe Flacco or Eli Manning of European soccer. Every season a discussion takes place on whether those two are “elite” NFL quarterbacks. Both clearly have serious talent, but they continually disappoint with poor game, or even season, performances. On the other hand, both have gotten hot in the playoffs and won Super Bowls, which is exactly what could happen for City. If Bayern and Barcelona are Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, City are the struggling Flacco/Eli we are all waiting to break through.

While money hasn’t bought them European success yet, Chelsea has supplied a roadmap for Man City. The difference is Roman Abramovich’s club competed in the Champions League immediately after he purchased them, reaching semi-finals in 2004, 2005, and 2007, the finals in 2008, before capturing the 2012 title with a remarkable run.

Many think coaching could be the main issue, that Manuel Pellegrini (and Roberto Mancini before him) hasn’t properly prepared their players for the grind of the Champions League. It’s a little more difficult to get motivated in Moscow on a frigid Wednesday night than it is for a rowdy Saturday afternoon in England. It’s been well reported that, barring a trophy or at least a deep Champions League run, this could be the end of Pellegrini’s rope. Will a third coach in this Big Money era make a marked difference?

City manager Manuel Pellegrini

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The group draw for the 2015-16 Champions League season was yesterday, and, as usual, City have a tough road to the knockout rounds. Group D is considered by most as the group of death, with City joined by Juventus, Sevilla, and Borussia Monchengladbach.

Juventus (who had their own European issues) burst through to last season’s final, falling to mighty Barcelona. Since then they have lost key figures, such as Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal, and Fernando Llorente, which would lead you to believe this is a depleted squad. Let’s be cautious to write them off though, as the Italian giants brought in Mario Mandzukic and Juan Cuadrado to fill the gaps on an already deep squad. Juve will still be strong, if slightly weaker than last season.

Sevilla are back-to-back Europa League champs, so they have a wealth of knockout tournament experience; the question for them is if they can extend that to the Champions League. They’ve lost Ivan Rakitic and Carlos Bacca in the last couple years, but have brought in Llorente and Ciro Immobile to add some firepower. Don’t sleep on these guys either.

Bundesliga’s Monchengladbach surged up the league table last season to finish 3rd, but their Champs League experience is severely limited. Still, their manager, Brett’s brother Lucien Favre (not really), has this club on the up-and-up since he took over in 2011. Gladbach will be dangerous, even if they are the least of the bunch here.

As for City, they certainly seem like an upgraded squad from last year. Young Raheem Sterling was bought (at no small price) to shore up the midfield, as well as Fabian Delph and Kevin De Bruyne. Along with Silva, Yaya Toure, Navas, and Nasri, that is one of the deepest midfields in the game, perfect for withstanding the highs and lows of an entire season. Sergio Aguero looks to be in tip-top form, plus he has the capable Wilfried Bony backing him up. The only question marks come from the defense, although an improved midfield will do wonders for the back line.

Is this the year City finally bust into Europe’s top echelon? They might have to forget their past Champions League woes to do so, because those don’t inspire any confidence whatsoever. Hey, maybe they won’t run into Bayern or Barcelona this time.

 

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About the author: Drew Wendt

 

I'm the editor for SoccerPro's blogs and enjoy writing about The Beautiful Game myself. I follow US Soccer, Chelsea, and Dortmund. Since my hometown is St. Louis that means I'm left without an MLS team, but recently I've jumped onto the Sporting KC bandwagon. Non-soccer related interests include basketball, film, and music. Google+

Website: https://www.soccerpro.com

 

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