Despite establishing a strong foothold as annual title contenders in the Premier League, Manchester City have found the Champions League a tougher nut to crack. Being knocked out at the group stage in 2012 and 2013 was not exactly the sort of impact that many expected the team to make in the competition, but although City have since made gradual inroads, there is an underlying feeling that the team are yet to hit their peak in Europe. Manuel Pellegrini certainly deserves credit for leading the team to the semi-finals last season, but the manner in which Manchester City lost to Real Madrid, particularly in the second leg at the Bernabéu, took a little bit of shine of what he, and the players, had achieved to get so far. Going that step further is arguably amongst the reasons why the club did everything in their power to appoint Pep Guardiola, and as the team have been a joy to watch in the Premier League under the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager, it may be a case of when, and not if, City replicate their league success on the European stage.
Being considered as the fourth favourites to lift the Champions League in the latest football betting odds with Betway certainly reflects the quality that City have at their disposal, in addition to having a manager who knows how to succeed in the Champions League. Guardiola is not only the youngest manager to win the competition, but is among an elite list of former and current managers who have lifted the Champions League trophy on two occasions; being one away from joining Bob Paisley and Carlo Ancelotti as the only men to have won three trophies may further ignite his burning ambition to achieve more, but it would coincide with City’s aspirations of being a force to be reckoned with in Europe. The superb 3-1 win at the Etihad against Barcelona would certainly indicate that City are heading in the right direction, and if Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero can continue to turn in the sort of performances that have lit up the Premier League this season, then beating one of Guardiola’s former employers in convincing fashion may not be a mere flash in the pan.
Victory against Barcelona has put City in control of their own destiny in Group C, particularly as Celtic’s late equaliser at Borussia Monchengladbach has left the Bundesliga side three points behind ahead of our crunch trip to Germany in Week 5. A repeat of the 2-1 win at Borussia-Park when the two teams met at the same stage last year would be more than welcome, particularly as it would secure City’s passage to the knockout stages before the Battle of Britain clash with Celtic at the Etihad. Fans can get behind City for the win, with the team rated as odds-on favourites with Betway to prevail in what is likely to be a difficult game against a side who have lost just one of their last seventeen fixtures on home soil in all competitions. Guardiola is unlikely to leave anything to chance, especially as Borussia Mochengladbach could go level on points if City slip up; it would be extremely surprising if, barring injuries, the manager did not select his strongest line-up possible in order to get the job done in Germany and remove any pressure on the team to get a result against Celtic.
The performance against Barcelona will have undoubtedly sent a warning to the rest of the Champions League contenders that Manchester City are a force to be reckoned with, but it may require more memorable performances during the knockout stages. Barcelona hold the advantage at the top of Group C, meaning that City may have to make do with finishing second and face the possibility of being drawn against the likes of Bayern Munich and Real Madrid. However, you have to beat the best in order to become the best – a philosophy which Guardiola certainly abides by, and while City may be relative newcomers to the Champions League compared to others, there is no reason why the team should fear anyone. Everyone connected with the club has worked incredibly hard to make qualifying for the Champions League a regular occurrence, and now with Guardiola at the helm, there is greater belief that City can become a dominant force in Europe.