Man City the team to beat in the Champions League
PEP Guardiola will oversee of his first Champions League group game as Manchester City manager today when Borussia Moenchengladbach visit the Etihad Stadium in Group C.
Here are five reasons why City could win the Champions League this season.
1. They’ve got Guardiola City finally landed Guardiola after courting him over four years, and the club’s fans have been unable to contain their glee. He already has his own chant – “Cause we’ve got (clap, clap) Guardiola!” to the tune of “Glad All Over” by the Dave Clark Five – and City’s fans sang it long and loud after their 2-1 derby win at Manchester United on September 10. Guardiola’s chief mission is to bring the Premier League title back to the Etihad, but he is also expected to take City to the next level in Europe. He won two Champions League titles in four years with Barcelona and will be desperate to make his mark on the competition again after three successive semi-final exits with Bayern Munich. 2. They’re England’s form team Guardiola did his best to temper expectations after City’s derby win, but there has been no disguising their impressive form over the first month of his tenure. They have won their first four Premier League games – beating Sunderland (2-1), Stoke City (4-1), West Ham United (3-1) and Manchester United (2-1) – and crushed Steaua Bucharest 6-0 on aggregate in the Champions League play-off round. Some of their football, particularly in the first half against United, has been sparkling.
3. They broke new ground last season The lavish investment made by City’s majority owner Sheikh Mansour has yielded two Premier League titles, two League Cups and one FA Cup, but it is in Europe that he hungers to see the team succeed. Prior to last season, City had never gone beyond the Champions League last-16, but in an unexpected flourish under outgoing manager Manuel Pellegrini, they made it to the semi-finals. City overcame a dangerous Paris SaintGermain team in the quarter-finals and narrowly lost 1-0 on aggregate to eventual champions Real Madrid in the last four. Previously seen as callow continental campaigners, City now know what it takes to win knockout-phase matches against elite opponents. 4. They have a team full of matchwinners Guardiola inherited a squad packed with creative talent in the shape of David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero, which has been supplemented by the signings of Nolito and Leroy Sane. Their 17 goals this season have been scored by eight different players, plus one own goal. Aguero already has six and when suspension ruled him out of the derby, De Bruyne and Kelechi Iheanacho stepped up to the plate with a goal apiece. Nolito has settled quickly following his move from Celta Vigo, while Sterling appears reborn and was named the Premier League’s Player of the Month for August. –
5. They will be battle-hardened The Champions League group-stage draw used to hold all kinds of fears for City, who failed to make it past the first hurdle in their first two seasons in the competition. But they won their group last season, finishing above Juventus, the previous campaign’s beaten finalists, eventual Europa League champions Sevilla and today’s opponents Gladbach. This season’s group also features Barcelona – Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Neymar and the rest – and Scottish champions Celtic. Barcelona will provide a stern test and the matches against Celtic are likely to be stormy affairs, but should City emerge from the group, they will already be on their mettle. –
Manchester City midfielder Fernandinho (left), defender John Stones (second left), midfielder Raheem Sterling (second right) and goalkeeper Claudio Bravo celebrate after their 2-1 “derby” victory over Manchester City on September 10.