Manchester City remain the bookies’ favourites to win this season’s Champions League despite an early wobble and having never progressed beyond the semi final stage of Europe’s most prestigious cup competition.
Pep Guardiola’s side began this year’s tournament in nightmare fashion with a home defeat to unfancied Lyon, who shocked the Etihad and took three points back to France with them.
City’s second fixture was also a struggle as they scraped past fiery German side Hoffenheim thanks to a late David Silva goal, lifting them to second place going into the double header against Ukrainian giants Shakhtar Donetsk.
City’s lack of prestige in the competition and early setback hasn’t put off bookmakers, with the Blues as short as 9/2 to win it. As any horse racing fan would tell you, like the guys over at horsebetting.com, the odds do not guarantee anything but this could be the year for Guardiola to end his recent Champions League drought.
Two of the yearly favourites, Real Madrid and Barcelona, are both performing far below their high standards, particularly reigning holders Madrid who are down in seventh in Spain’s La Liga.
Over in Germany, another of the usual sides tipped to go far, Bayern Munich, have endured a horror start to the Bundesliga and have just one win in their previous five games in all competitions.
Last year’s tormenters Liverpool could be the team for City to avoid, with Jurgen Klopp always proving to be a thorn in Guardiola’s side, and another team knocking Liverpool out of the Champions League could aid City’s cause.
Others to look out for in this year’s Champions League include Paris Saint-Germain, Napoli, Borussia Dortmund and Juventus, but Manchester City should take confidence from the poor form of rivals and use it to try and go one step further, to the final and then lifting the elusive trophy.
Speaking on Monday prior to the away game against Shakhtar, Pep Guardiola said it would take a collective effort for City to win the Champions League, and called again upon the fans, who have a cold relationship with governing body UEFA, to embrace the competition and support the team.
“You have to have the desire, the club, the fans, chairman, owner, everyone has to push to be closer,” Guardiola said.
“You have to be pushed, not just by the manager, by everyone surrounding Manchester City that we have to win it – and still we don’t have that feeling. The feeling that the fans are pushing that we have to win the Champions League.
“Normally what happens is you get closer, that’s why I feel we are a really good team, but in this competition you need something special, and still I don’t feel it.”