Can Pep Finally Conquer Europe At The Etihad?

For all of Manchester City’s success in the past decade, there is still one prize that eludes them and not until the Etihad outfit land the UEFA Champions League, can they be considered as one of the continent’s elite.

Many a manager has attempted such a feat in the past and all have failed, which when you consider the personnel that have taken such a task and the litany of talents they possess, that must be considered as a relative failure.

Not to mention, the eye-watering sums of money that have been spent in the pursuit of European club football’s richest prize and with Pep Guardiola overseeing City’s latest attempts at reaching the promised land, one wonders just how many more shortcomings he will be afforded.

When you consider just how dominant Guardiola’s group of players have been in the past couple of years, to not match their domestic stature on foreign soil is something of a mystery and one that continues to go unsolved.

Especially when you look at the way they meekly fell out of last season’s Champions League at the quarterfinal stage and after doing the relative hard work in the Round of 16, they were then knocked off their perch by Lyon of Ligue 1.

With City paired against Real Madrid in the Round of 16, this was always going to be a huge hurdle to clear and after getting the better of the Santiago Bernabeu outfit, fans of the Manchester club certainly dared to dream.

However, that dream turned into a nightmare once their pairing with Lyon had come to a close and with Pep’s men being dumped out of the competition, it was back to the drawing board in the hunt for European success.

Which leads us to this present moment in time and with this season’s Champions League group stage now reaching the halfway stage, City find themselves with a perfect record after three wins from as many matches.

While it is this trio of performances that has certainly garnered the interest of the bookmakers, as when weighing up the quartet of English hopefuls and their own chances of winning the Champions League this season Manchester City is the best team according to SBR.

With City priced as 5/1 second-favourites, there is a growing element of confidence in them right now and their early showings in this season’s edition of the tournament, certainly make them worthy of such a price.

However, there is also a sense that this could end up being misplaced confidence, especially when you consider just how bullish Bayern Munich have been thus far and if they are hoping to defend the crown they won in August, the Bavarian’s are going about things the right way.

While even though Pep Guardiola has masterminded three group stage wins this season, that’s only really what City are expected to do and as the old adage goes “you cannot win the competition this early, you can only lose it.

Which means, that it’s not what City do before Christmas which is important, it’s what they do after the turn of the year that will count the most and if they flatter to deceive in the knockout stages, it will only mean more heartbreak at the Etihad.

Should this prove to be the case, is this the point where City’s current cabal of superstars is broken up and either a new manager is installed or he is given another blank cheque to finally deliver the club’s ultimate aim.

If Guardiola does stay, then you get the feeling some tinkering under the bonnet may need to take place and with Sergio Aguero picking up more and more niggles these days, questions remain about his ability to perform at the very highest level on a long-term basis.

Not only that, but for as good as Gabriel Jesus really is, can he honestly be considered the heir apparent to Aguero at the Etihad? The answer to that, is perhaps not and if City are to really mix it with the best on a more regular basis, a new attacking kingpin may need to be found.

City have certainly impressed in the Champions League this season to date, but to use a boxing analogy this amounts to nothing more than light sparring. Now, Pep Guardiola must try and make sure his players deliver a huge European knockout blow at the end of the season. 

By Rob 20th November 2020

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