Bayern Munich’s comfortable win over Manchester City once again demonstrated their credentials as one of the finest club sides in world football and left the Blues looking way short of competing with Europe’s elite.
Since the takeover by Sheikh Mansour back in 2008, City have consistently spent money in an attempt to become one of Europe’s leading clubs. A Premier League title and an FA Cup have justified much of that outlay. But in Europe they’ve found it difficult, having been knocked out in the group stages in their two previous campaigns.
City still have a good chance of qualifying this time, but on tonight’s evidence they would struggle to go much further if they were to make it out of Group D.
Bayern were completely dominant, out-passing and outworking City right from the off.
The fluidity of the Germans' system was striking. Philipp Lahm protected the back four with an outstanding performance in the holding role, allowing Toni Kroos, Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and Bastian Schweinsteiger to interchange effortlessly in support of Thomas Muller in attack. The passing between the Bayern players was special, and City could barely get on the ball.
The chasm between the two sides was huge. Bayern enjoyed 60 percent possession and managed 13 attempts on target to City’s two. It was a comprehensive win for the visitors, and Manuel Pellegrini now has to pick his side up ahead of Saturday’s visit of Everton in the league.
City improved in the last 10 minutes, but by then the game was over. Bayern had taken off Ribery, Robben and Schweinsteiger, confident they had the match won.
City had some life injected into them by the arrivals of substitutes David Silva, James Milner and Alvaro Negredo, but it was too little, too late. Negredo, who was unlucky not to start and will almost certainly lead the line against Everton, scored a superb goal which at least gave City fans something to cheer.
The return of Silva was the one major bright spot for City.
The Spaniard, who has been missing since the win over Hull at the end of August, is City’s best attacking player, and his ability to pass and keep City in possession is a vital component of their side. He provided two brilliant passes in his short cameo, including an assist for Negredo’s goal. He also hit the bar late on with a terrific free-kick. City will be desperately hoping he can stay fit and get a run in the side.
Joe Hart’s form, which I discussed on these pages after the defeat at Villa, continues to worry all those connected to City. He was at fault for the first and third goals of this match, beaten at his near post both times with shots he should be saving.
The lack of competition at club and international level means he isn’t challenged strongly enough. If there were an experienced goalkeeper at City putting pressure on him for his place, it’s likely his performances would have been better.
As it stands, only Costel Pantilimon can realistically step in for Hart. He is yet to prove himself at the highest level, having shown some indifferent form in the past.
City need to qualify from the group to end their poor record of the previous two seasons, but they would need to vastly improve on tonight’s performance if they were to go deeper into the competition.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @TypicalCity.