Where It Went Wrong for Manchester City in the Champions League

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Where It Went Wrong for Manchester City in the Champions League
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Roberto Mancini

Roberto Mancini has often seemed inscrutable when asked what went wrong with City in this year's Champions League.

This is City's second successive failure in their only two appearances in the competition. Despite that it doesn't seem as if his job is at risk. Luckily he doesn't have Roman Abramovich as manager.

This doesn't change the fact that there is a woeful disparity between their ECL and Premier League performance, where they remain unbeaten in the latter.

When you think about it, maybe that is a comment on the Premier League itself. You've got United sitting top with a dodgy defence; Chelsea in meltdown under their worst nightmare as a manager; Arsenal in free fall and Liverpool struggling to rebuild.

Then you look at the Champions League and City are the only English team ever to fail to win a Group match. They haven't qualified; Chelsea probably won't; and Arsenal slipped to second place against Olympiakos for heavens sake.

And United didn't come up smelling of roses last season either, with a shambolic exit at the hands of Basel.

Gone are the days when England could count on four teams in the knockout stage.

Tonight's performance summed it up

But back to City. The Dortmund match this evening had all the elements that sum up City's departure and some worrying signs that could come back to bite them in the Premier League.

OK so City have at times played some sparkling football in the ECL this year, but they have also been their own worst enemies.

The general pattern sums it up: Dortmund won their matches at home and drew away (as well as their win at Ajax); City drew at home and lost away.

But the problems were clear in the first match when Real Madrid came from behind to win in the Bernabeu. Mancini was supposed to sort them, but he hasn't and City have drifted steadily away from qualification.

Which is also what happened tonight. They started both halves brightly and fell away, particularly after Dortmund scored, which seemed to knock the wind out of them. They briefly revived with the arrival of Aguero, but Balotelli was on another planet again and Dzeko's departure left a vacuum of endeavour.

If City had held on to win that first match against Real Madrid they might have sailed through to qualification on euphoria. Instead they looked tonight as if they weren't sure if they even wanted to qualify for the Europa League.

Maybe Dzeko summed it up in the Sky Sports interview before the match when he appeared to indicate that City would rather win Sunday's Manchester derby than qualify for the Europa League.

This leaves them with a couple of problems: a second successive year of spectacular failure for the Etihad "Galacticos" will not go down well with the owners and doesn't fit the "project" blueprint.

And their failure does nothing for their "European profile", which determines their seeding next season. So they may yet again end up in a "Group of death". 

There will have to be changes before then or they can expect a similar outcome. Could that include the manager at the end of the season, whether or not they win the Premier League?

Anyhow, let's briefly consider the possible key factors involved in this year's failure. 

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