Will Manchester City Be Able to Make a Champions League Push?
Michael Regan/Getty Images
Manchester City spent so many years and so much money trying to qualify for the Champions League that, when they finally got there, they didn't quite know what to do with themselves.
Last season, particularly, City looked about as comfortable in Champions League play as a plain rich girl who knows her daddy paid her way into a beauty pageant.
Sometimes it is not such an honor just to be nominated.
City's Champions League free fall last year—three road losses, three home draws—was the beginning of the end for Roberto Mancini. Not even his £37.5 million contract could save him, particularly when the 2012-13 season ended without silver.
Manuel Pellegrini was putatively brought to the Etihad to unleash City's prodigious offensive talents and play more attractive football than Mancini's charges did.
But let's not tiptoe around the truth. Pellegrini is managing City now because City's brass want Champions League success. Not in two years, or five years.
They want Champions League success right now.
Yaya Toure was recently quoted by ESPNFC.com German correspondent Stephan Uersfeld as having told German magazine kicker that City "want to survive the group stage, and everything else will be bonus games."
Merely advancing past the group stage is unlikely to be seen by City chief executive Ferran Soriano or director of football Txiki Begiristain as success. Since City have never achieved this feat, though, it is only reasonable to start with an analysis of whether they can even accomplish that much.
A quick peek at City's group and their schedule is telling.
City have drawn Bayern Munich, CSKA Moscow and Viktoria Plzen in this season's UEFA Champions League. It’s a mouthwatering draw which pits the Blues against Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich, who won the competition at Wembley back in May.
"Mouthwatering" is an interesting choice of words in that paragraph. Drawing Bayern Munich in the group stage should only make a side salivate if they are hungry for failure and misery.
Can City take any points from Bayern Munich in the group stage? A fair barometer might be the single point (of a possible six) City gained in two matches against Real Madrid in late 2012.
Is it really safe to presume City will fare much better against last season's winner? Probably not.
That leaves City with four matches against Viktoria Plzen and CSKA Moscow in which to accumulate enough points to finish in the top two of the group's four teams.
And the schedule maker did City no real favor, either.
City's first Champions League match is away to Viktoria Plzen at Struncovy Sady Stadion in the Czech Republic. As of this writing, City are a better-than-even-money favorite (per Ladbrokes) to win that match despite the season's first derby looming five days later.
In similar fashion, City's trip to Russia to play CSKA Moscow comes four days before the Sky Blues head to Stamford Bridge for a Premier League clash with Chelsea.
Will Manchester City advance beyond their group?
City's results against Viktoria Plzen and CSKA Moscow will ultimately decide their fate in the group stage. City will almost certainly be favored to win all of these matches; at home they will be heavy favorites.
Again per Ladbrokes, City are well favored to survive to the knockout rounds. While Bayern Munich are the tournament favorite at +333, City are the fifth choice at +1100 just behind Chelsea at +1000.
Comparatively, CSKA Moscow are long shots at +15000 and Viktoria Plzen are a total afterthought at +50000.
On balance, then, it seems more likely than not that City will get out of group play and make their first foray into the elimination phase.
Of course, no one thought City could lose to Ajax Amsterdam last season.
Similar results against the weaker teams in City's group this time around would condemn them to the same fate.
What is the duplicate article?
Why is this article offensive?
Where is this article plagiarized from?
Why is this article poorly edited?