Manchester City enters its inaugural season of Champions League football with full intent of indulging themselves with some European glory pie. Roberto Mancini has a squad bursting at the seams with talent and champing at the bit to bring home the UEFA Champions League trophy next May.
The UEFA Champions League's new boys have all the skill and resources needed to knock Barcelona off their perch. A little luck wouldn't hurt either.
I could easily make an argument that Manchester City will take over for Barcelona as European champions based on one thing: scarf power. Roberto Mancini has successfully taken City to the highest level of football in less than two years all while wearing his light blue and white scarf.
Mancini joined in 2009 as a swift overhaul of the "other" club in Manchester ensued with a new ownership regime in place. The Italian has had unlimited resources to work with during his time as the Manchester City boss.
He has successfully climbed the ladder of success during his short two years. His first season in 2009-10, Mancini took the Citizens from 10th in the table and finished in a respectable fifth-place spot—narrowly missing out on a top-four finish by three points.
The fifth-place spot booked their ticket for European football in the Europa League. In 2010-11, Mancini took his team to another level, pipping the free-falling Arsenal for a third place finish in the table, earning an automatic Champions League spot for this season.
Add in the victory over crosstown rivals Manchester United in the FA Cup Semi-Final at Wembley Stadium and the City boss has his team right on track to perform well in Europe.
The month of January could prove to be a pivotal month for any of the top clubs in Europe hoping to bring home European glory. The midseason transfer window opens up and allows teams to make any buys necessary to enhance their chances for success going into the second half of the season.
January for Manchester City could be where the club secures its European dreams. Anything that seems to be lacking in the production department for the club could easily be circumvented as the Middle Eastern owners remedy up a cash solution.
City does not exactly need a whole lot. They probably have too many players on their squad, creating an unnecessarily large wage budget every week for players who only see action in training. But if there's one position the Citizens could probably improve in, it would be along their back line.
Compared to their front line and midfield quality, the back end of things seems to lack some oomph. It would probably behove Mancini to look for an injection of talent somewhere along his back line. If anything, just for the purpose of depth.
A certain January transfer from the Bundesliga seems to be paying dividends on the front end of things. Adding a purchase this coming January to the back end could prove to be crucial. It's hard to fathom Manchester City just sitting idly by if they could improve their squad.
Isn't it nice? You know, when you're financially strapped and the city's second fiddle club gets taken over by an oil-rich billionaire.
Manchester City fans hit the jackpot. Big time. Any supporter would welcome with open arms the overwhelming investment of cash into their club. If they deny that notion, they're only fooling themselves.
And they say money doesn't buy happiness. Pfft. Clearly, they never had a billion dollars to buy a club and build a star-studded roster.
The man pictured above is the brother of Abu Dhabi's ruler. Sheikh Mansour purchased the club in 2009 and wasted no time converting some of his family's £555 billion into talent on the pitch.
Gareth Barry, Carlos Tevez, Rogue Santa Cruz, Emmanuel Adebayor, David Silva, Edin Dzeko and Samir Nasri are just some of the names to come into the fold since Mansour opened up his check book.
The ownership presiding over Manchester City has basically given Mancini free reign over whom the club goes after in the transfer window. Manchester City's administrator of football commented on the ambitions of the club: "Speaking to Roberto during the summer and talking about the players he wanted to bring in, it was an ambition of his to really compete for four trophies."
Rest assured, City's ownership will do anything needed to fulfil those ambitions. Even if it requires bending around some financial fair play rules.
All the supporters that go to Etihad Stadium clad from head to toe in light blue have waited a long time to watch their boys play in Champions League football. You better believe they cannot wait to show all of Europe their new favorite celebratory display: the Poznan.
Normally turning your back to the field would be considered an act of disgrace and protest to a team's performance. The Poznan is quite the opposite. It shows a fantastic display of emotion and makes for a riveting aesthetic experience to see an entire fan base arm-in-arm, jumping for joy.
You know, unless you're in the visitors section. But who cares about the visitors at a football match. It's not like you're inviting them in for tea and crumpets.
The frenzied celebrations that will erupt after Manchester City scores their first Champions League goal at Etihad Stadium should be a sight to behold. Etihad Stadium may not be quite the European atmosphere as the Kop, but the Citizens will have their chance to make a proper impression on all of Europe.
After all, first impressions are everything, right?
Manchester City have assembled quite possibly the most intimidating front line in football the world over. The only club that could surpass them in this area would be Barcelona, of course. Having Lionel Messi and David Villa alone puts them into the conversation.
However, City has four incredibly gifted, diverse and talented players up front. It's quite frightening actually. They could feasibly play any style and in any formation they choose along their front line.
Carlos Tevez shared the Golden Boot title last season, netting 20 goals for City in the Premier League. Tevez provides an eye for goal with his speed and finishing ability.
David Silva has created a formidable partnership in his short time in Manchester with Tevez. Silva can navigate his way in and around the box providing through balls, crosses and goals for the club.
Edin Dzeko came over from the Bundesliga club Wolfsburg during this year's January transfer window and has settled in nicely. The former Bundesliga Man of the Year has plenty of goal scoring ability and provides a change of pace in the style of attack he brings to the front line. Dzeko also has European experience, which doesn't hurt.
Sergio Aguero is the new kid on the block and boy-oh-boy did he impress in his debut. Aguero scored a brace—including a magnificent strike from outside the box—while also providing an acrobatic assist off the line. Like Dzeko, Aguero came to Manchester with Champions League appearances and goals on his resume.
Any and every back line will struggle keeping this fabulous foursome in check.
The English Premier League has a global reputation for being the most difficult league in the world to compete in. With such giants as Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool to compete with for European qualification, it makes simply qualifying a gratifying achievement in itself.
English teams may not win the European title every year, but they have been in the championship game six of the last seven competitions. Nothing to balk at there.
Teams representing the Premier League fare well due to the tough competition domestically. Usually facing more robust defenses on home soil prepares the English teams for European competition. The majority of European clubs play a more open style of play with an emphasis on attacking.
There are exceptions to that, but for the most part that holds true.
Manchester City play a conservative style under Mancini but that could change in Europe. Open play would allow City's talent to shine bright on the grandest of stages. Not having to face a bunch of teams that like to enforce long ball and brutish tactics every week will only play into the hands of Mancini.
Manchester City did not exactly receive a welcoming gift with their group stage draw. The gift-wrapped group was sent to a different Manchester address.
Instead City drew clubs from the three other dominant leagues in Europe: Germany, Italy and Spain. However, it may not be the worst thing in the world.
Sure, getting out of the group stage will be difficult but not impossible. If you want to win the European crown you will eventually have to beat some noteworthy opposition. Mancini's men get to see what they're made of from the get-go.
Drawing Bayern Munich, Napoli, and Villareal feels like a cruel joke played on the new boys. Kind of like pantsing the new kid at lunch in front of the table where all the "popular" girls sit on the first day of class.
It's fair to say that the odds are in favor of an English, Italian, German, or Spanish team winning the cup. So why not face three diverse styles in the beginning as a baptismal into the competition? If you can escape the group—or win it—the confidence within the squad will be sky high as they progress into the knock out stages.
Yes, that's with a "B" in the title. That's how much the Manchester City ownership under Sheikh Mansour have invested into the club in his three years thus far.
Since Sept. 1, 2008, Mansour has penned checks for over a billion pounds as the investor of Manchester City. The purchase of Samir Nasri pushed Mansour over the billion pound mark in August.
Bernard Halford, the club's secretary, made this statement about the day Mansour took over and bought the Brazilian forward Robinho for an English record (at the time) at the death of the deadline day.
"We signed Robinho at the last minute and I remember having to get the forms done at ten to midnight, with all the fans outside, driving around the stadium beeping their horns and singing. It was as though it had been really cloudy and, just like that, the clouds are blown away and it’s a clear blue sky with something big coming up on the horizon.”
The limitless spending on wages, transfer fees and shareholder's stakes since 2008 has catapulted the Citizens into European relativity. City fans hope their owner's investments will pay big, fat, silver dividends as they flood the streets once again, except this time they'll do so in May.
The former Arsenal and French midfielder wasted no time putting his talents on display for his new employer. Samir Nasri orchestrated a masterful display of passes and assists in his debut. Manchester City thumped Tottenham 5-1 at White Hart Lane, in large part due to Nasri's vision and ability to place teammates into enviable positions.
Nasri, like so many other on Mancini's squad has plenty of experience on Europe's highest stage. His ability to harness the run of form he enjoyed during the first half of last season could see the Citizens move forward into the knockout rounds with ease.
Mancini will be counting on Nasri to bring his big bag of tricks during the European adventures. A big reason the City boss wanted to bring the midfielder on board was due to his ability to shine in Europe. He certainly already had the attacking prowess in midfield to feel suffice.
Although Nasri has been rumored to have broken his hand during this past week's international break, it should not have a long term impact on City's Champions League aspirations. The Frenchman should have a ball getting to feed balls into Manchester City's front line. Something he didn't have at Arsenal.
The England senior international and Manchester City goalie will play an enormous part in keeping City on track during European competition. He will face a plethora of strikers and midfielders capable of putting one in the ol' onion bag.
England has some of the world's greatest goal scorers, but not all of them. The majority that aren't playing in England play throughout Europe.
Joe Hart, for one reason or another, has been underrated by his critics. The 24-year-old will be a featured keeper in the Premier League and for Manchester City for the next decade. Having a starter between the poles that you can count on and pen in with permanent ink on your roster chart is a luxury.
Ask their crosstown neighbors how Edwin van der Sar worked out for them in goal for all those years.
Hart also gets to face that potent front line in training constantly.
"You go for one ball and the next minute it's gone through three other people and it's in the other side of the net before you've even dived. But that's the exciting thing. It's going to help me improve, playing [against] these good strikers and the passing football that goes on."
Facing his own terrorizing offense should only help him improve tenfold and be stone-cold fearless when facing European competition.