Why Roberto Mancini's Manchester City Could Come Undone in Europe This Season
Manchester City are in real danger of failing to qualify for the knockout round of the UEFA Champions League.
Their opening two results have been far from beneficial to the cause, and scrounging a 1-1 draw at home to Borussia Dortmund will have set off the alarm bells in Roberto Mancini's head.
After last season's disappointment in going out to Napoli and Bayern Munich, could the Citizens slip up a second time in a row?
Roberto Mancini's Tinkering
Manchester City kept a clean sheet at home to Sunderland this weekend. It was their first in 10 attempts this season.
So what's going wrong? the Citizens' defence resembled a large, immovable rock last year and the personnel has largely stayed the same.
Roberto Mancini's decision to introduce the 3-5-2 as an alternate formation this summer hasn't gone as smoothly as expected, and the severe differences between a three-man line and a flat back-four have caught up with them.
The players look confused and struggle with regard to their position. Even Vincent Kompany, a contender for the title of best defender in world football, is finding it tough to switch mid-game.
Haunted by Last Year?
Manchester City were given an incredibly tough group to contend with as a reward for finally making it to the UEFA Champions League last year.
Bayern Munich presented a considerable threat and ended up losing the final on penalties to Chelsea, while the eventual winners in blue nearly went home early at the hands of Napoli, City's other group stage opponents.
After finishing third above the woeful Villarreal, their European coefficient scoring suffered and they have drawn an even shorter straw this time around.
Exiting early is not something you forget easily. Could it be playing on the minds of the players already? It's certainly the case for the fans.
Roberto Mancini's Bleak Record
A lack of success in Europe's top-tier competition is the sole reason Roberto Mancini was removed from his post at Internazionale.
Despite becoming just the third coach in the Nerrazzuri's history to win back-to-back Serie A titles, a poor European record consistently soured Massimo Moratti's mood.
Losses to AC Milan, Valencia and particularly Liverpool straight out of the group stages are not fondly remembered. In England, Mancini's loss to the Reds in the second knockout round in 2008 has not been forgotten and is, in fact, representative of Italian teams underachieving in front of a British audience.
It's not fair to take this sample and assume the Italian can't conquer Europe. It is, however, fair to worry on the back of the evidence.
Are They the Third Best Team in the Group?
Manchester City battled hard but ultimately departed the Santiago Bernabeu with nothing. On the same evening, Borussia Dortmund struggled to put Ajax away and required a late goal from Robert Lewandowski to secure three points.
You'd be forgiven for thinking Die Borussen had lost a step after the departure of Shinji Kagawa on the back of that, but the German champion's visit to the Etihad stadium quickly put that one to bed.
On the evidence of the first two games, The Citizens are the third-best team in Group D. While many expected a shootout between Roberto Mancini and Jurgen Klopp for second place, most thought the Italian would pip the German.
There's a chance that won't happen.