Man City have been installed as the pre-season favourites to win the Champions League ahead of heavyweights like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Juventus. Pep Guardiola’s men dazzled with their technical brilliance and free-flowing football last season, romping to the Premiership title in record-breaking fashion. But they ultimately came unstuck against a ferociously committed and dynamic Liverpool side in the Champions League. Yet the odds compilers now expect them to shrug off that disappointment and rise to the summit of European football in the 2018/19 campaign.
Check out the odds at Bookmaker, and you will see that the Citizens are out on their own in the Champions League betting. They are priced at 6/1, while Barca are out at 7/1, Real Madrid are 15/2, Bayern Munich are 8/1 and Juventus are 9/1. No other English club comes close to Man City in the bookmakers’ estimations. So can this really be the season in which they finally earn the trophy that their Emirati owners have craved for so long?
When you examine the progress this team has made in the past 12 months, it looks entirely possible. They struggled in their first year under Pep Guardiola, but he made the right tweaks in the transfer market last summer and they simply blew away the opposition last season. The ruthless manner in which they took apart Arsenal twice in the space of a few days epitomised their brilliance. There was the thrashing of Liverpool, and hugely impressive victories over Man Utd, Spurs and Chelsea. There is every reason to think that, with another transfer window under his belt, Guardiola could lead Man City to glory in the Champions League.
The likes of Riyad Mahrez and Jorginho will bolster a squad that is already teeming with world-class talent. Kevin De Bruyne will continue to excel alongside Fernandinho, and Guardiola will continue to generate improvements in players like Kyle Walker, Nicolas Otamendi, Leroy Sané, Raheem Sterling and Ilkay Gundogan. City have plenty of exciting options in attack, a world-class midfield, a top goalkeeper and a surprisingly solid defence. Their owners are hugely ambitious and they are bankrolling Guardiola in a much more lavish way than he ever enjoyed at Bayern Munich. He could not get past the semi-finals with them, so he moved to Man City for a fresh start.
But before that he won the Champions League twice with Barcelona. He knows how to get the job done in this tournament, and he has quality players at his disposal. The one department in which City may be lacking is a superstar forward. They could not live with Mohamed Salah in Europe last season, and that made all the difference. When Guardiola was winning Champions League titles at Barca, he was blessed with Lionel Messi in his prime, and City lack anyone at his level.
Their achievements last season were based around collective brilliance, albeit with De Bruyne and David Silva showing his majestic quality on a regular basis. They did not have anyone in the mould of Salah or Messi, a forward banging in 40-plus goals and deciding crucial games with moments of magic. Sergio Aguero is getting on a bit and he is injury prone. Gabriel Jesus is a great finisher, but he is more of a poacher. Raheem Sterling struggles in front of goal, and Sané has bags of potential but he is not quite there yet. Mahrez is a great player, but he may not be the answer. Perhaps it is time for Man City to splash out on someone like Kylian Mbappe. Then they really could conquer Europe with ease.