Champions League: Will Manchester City Benefit from European Exit?
Played six. Won zero.
Roberto Mancini will be haunted by this statistic. We all knew Manchester City's Champions League quest was going to be difficult this year. What we didn't consider was a complete failing on the part of the English champions.
Fixtures against Ajax, Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid were always going to test City's resolve. Despite the obvious difficulty, Mancini's men were expected to compete—and at absolute minimum—qualify for the Europa League.
This unambitious dream died at the Westfalenstadion.
As Julian Schieber rolled the ball past Joe Hart, City's entire European campaign whimpered to its conclusion. Schieber, who has started just one other game in all competitions this season, underlined a youthful Dortmund outfit that played fearlessly and with tremendous desire to win their dead rubber match.
On the opposite side of the pitch, 11 players fitted in blue couldn't care less. City lacked intensity, determination—and most tellingly—belief.
1 - Manchester City is the first English team not to win a single game in the Champions League group phase. Historic.— OptaFranz (@OptaFranz)
Roberto Mancini must rally his troops quickly.
With the Capital One Cup and European football out of reach, City now have all their eggs in one Premier League-shaped basket. Retention of the domestic crown is absolutely vital. As all City fans will know, Manchester United are next up.
A victory against Sir Alex Ferguson's men will go a long way to improving squad morale. Performances have stuttered in the Premier League—even though an unbeaten streak remains intact. The Etihad will be rocking for United's arrival and will certainly be expectant of a win.
Sunday's clash is the first step along a difficult road for Mancini. He now has a squad of world class players that is likely to go unused. Useful talents such as Scott Sinclair, Javi Garcia, Kolo Toure and Jack Rodwell are unlikely to get much game time when the rest of the team is fit. The F.A Cup could become a competition for the club's reserves.
Let's not forget the ridiculous strength of City's striking options. Mancini continues to rotate his goal threat, which is perfectly acceptable when competing on domestic and European fronts.
The Italian will now struggle to guarantee Mario Balotelli, Edin Dzeko, Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez prolonged exposure on the pitch. Mancini is likely to stick with a single partnership—effectively forcing leftovers out of the club.
This situation doesn't benefit a team that has quickly gotten used to success. Players of this calibre need time on the pitch. Joleon Lescott has already admitted he fears for his international future after a lack of games (via The Sun). The rest of the squad might follow suite.
Many will suggest Roberto Mancini and his side won't be bothered about missing out on the Europa League. Such claims are foolish. This club wants—and needs—to be competing at the top level. A sustained presence in European football is the most effective way of attracting and retaining international superstars.
Group D was always outlined as the group of death. Even so, nobody expected Manchester City to embrace the afterlife with such readiness.
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