An interesting stat emerged this season; QPR have the same amount of Champions League winners in their squad as Manchester City, 4. City have Yaya Toure, Carlos Tevez, Maicon and Balotelli. QPR have Julio Cesar, Bosingwa, Park Ji-Sung and Djibril Cisse. The point is that whilst on paper City have an excellent side, it is still relatively unproven at the highest level after a dismal Champions League run last season. Despite getting ten points they crashed out in the Group Stages, a major disappointment for the club and its owners.
Many have questioned Robeto Mancini’s European record having not got past the quarter-finals in several attempts with Inter, City and Lazio. This is certainly not good enough for a so called ‘top’ manager and many believe is what cost him his job at Inter Milan despite leading them to three consecutive league titles. In all honesty City will need to get to the Semi-Final at least to prove that they are a club to be feared in Europe as they remain relatively inexperienced. The club are currently in a lowly 19th in UEFA’s European coefficients. England’s other representatives all feature in the top six which contrasts their experience and European pedigree. Chelsea broke onto the scene as a new European side but were still a 2nd seed and had experiences in the competition in the 99/00 season as well as qualifying for fourth the season prior to Abramovich taking over which helped their coefficient, as did several campaigns in the UEFA Cup. City have quality players but as we saw with their failed campaign last season, this is not always enough. The other English sides have produced countless big European performances and closed off games from leading positions, something City failed to do last night. Whether this was down to experience, luck or Madrid’s quality remains to be seen.
City did well against Madrid, taking the lead twice, but on the whole losing was a fair result. Madrid dominated possession with 55%, as we’d expect of the home side. They also comprehensively dominated the chances with 35 efforts, 12 on target, compared to City’s 10 attempts and only 3 on target. Hart made a string of good saves to keep City in the game in the first half as well as producing a couple of good saves in the second. City rode their luck and it almost paid off. Having taken the lead twice City can feel aggrieved at coming away without a point, but still the point remains they start the campaign with a loss. Many might point to tactical flaws in Mancini’s game plan with the side failing to close out the victory, but that would be unfair given the frantic pace of the game. His decisions will become more closely scrutinized if the club don’t come back from this defeat.
I do not want to start a knee-jerk campaign for Mancini out, but if the side do not have a strong showing in this tournament he will be replaced by someone with more European pedigree. The side are still excellent man to man but they are evolving still and Mancini is clearly disappointed that he did not add more experience to the sides ranks in the summer which could explain why he moved for Maicon, despite having two good right backs in Richards and Zabaleta. Having been leading with five minutes left the club are now starting the group 3 points behind and are under pressure with Dortmund also picking up three points. City should still be considered favourites to go through above Dortmund but they do face a tough task and will need to show their quality to get through the group. They will need to pick up three points in the sides next game at home to Dortmund, failure to do so will heap a huge deal of pressure on the side for the remainder of their European campaign. We will learn a lot about City and their prospects by how they respond in their next fixture, as well as how they do when Madrid visit the Etihad later this year. It will however, take more than one Premier League title to turn Manchester City into a European giant, as was the case with their reality check against Madrid, as harsh an assessment as that may seem.
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