Man City Find Themselves In Unfamiliar Champions League Territory

City Front Door

The Champions League has, on the whole, been something of a struggle for Manchester City since they first booked a seat at European football’s top table with a third-place Premier League finish back in 2010/11.

Of their four forays into the competition prior to this season, only once can they claim to have enjoyed a productive run through the event – and even then they ended up as runners-up in their group and were forced to face the might of Barcelona in the last-16.

The Catalan giants also dashed their dreams in the second round last term – on their way to taking the trophy – with a late scramble to reach the knockout stage ultimately counting for nothing.

Prior to that, City’s troubles among the elite were well documented, with early elimination endured in back-to-back campaigns under Roberto Mancini.

Part of the problem for the Blues has been the speed at which they have started their quests, with stumbles out of the blocks often leaving them playing catch-up.

In 2011/12, they took just four points from the first nine on offer and were unable to work their way back into contention from there – having to make do with the consolation prize of dropping into the Europa League.

Twelve months on and City found the going even tougher – admittedly in a hellish group which included champions from four countries – with one point collected by the halfway stage, and only two more added after that as they crashed out battered, bruised and winless.

Lessons have been learned along the way, though, with steady progress made – from successive group stage exits to back-to-back last-16 appearances.

If that forward momentum is to continue this term, then City should be setting their sights at reaching at least the quarter-finals.

In order to do that, they will be aware of the need to finish top of their group – avoiding a potential third date with Barca and the other superpowers of the European game.

They are on course to do that, with Manuel Pellegrini’s men in the unfamiliar position of knowing that their continental fate now rests in their own hands.

Even back in 2013/14 – when they collected five wins from six, including four in a row – an early defeat to Bayern meant top spot was always likely to remain tantalisingly out of reach.

This term, with online betting markets having City at around 11/10 to win Group D, Pellegrini’s men will know a few more points will see them achieve that target.

They already have nine to their name – their best return by this stage of the competition and the best of a toiling Premier League contingent – with last season’s finalists, Juventus, one point behind.

A trip out on the road to Turin will test City to the full, but should hold no fear and must be viewed as stepping stone on a path Pellegrini will hope leads to the San Siro in May.

That may be a big ask for a side yet to truly make their mark on world football’s grandest club competition, but the money invested at the Etihad and the world-class squad that has been assembled suggests that they really should be looking to kick on from this point and break free of their Champions League shackles.

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