The groups for this season’s UEFA Champions League were drawn yesterday and Manchester City drew the hardest group of the four English clubs in the competition.
Where should Manchester City be finishing in their group? Should they be winning it?
Manchester City have been drawn into group D along with last season’s runners-up and Serie A champions Juventus, the UEFA Europa League winners Sevilla, and Bundesliga side Borussia Monchengladbach.
In our look at the group stage draw (here) we predicted that Manchester City will finish third in the group and miss out on the knockout stages of the Champions League. We have Sevilla down to win the group having won the Europa League the past two season’s, Juventus to come in second having lost some important players over the summer, and Monchengladbach coming in last.
One Manchester City fan on the radio called their group “the group of death”.
But should that really be the case?
No. No it shouldn’t.
With all the money that Manchester City have spent over the last couple of years, coupled with the fact that they have taken part in the Champions League for the last four years they need to be doing better in this competition.
This summer alone they have already spent £100 million on players having paid Liverpool £49 million for Raheem Sterling, £8 million onFabian Delph from Aston Villa, £33 million on Nicolas Otamendi from Valencia, and £12 million on Patrick Roberts from Fulham.
The amount they’ve spent might go up to the £150 million mark if/when they sign Kevin De Bruyne from Wolfsburg which is looking increasingly more likely.
When you spend that sort of money you shouldn’t be looking to try and get out of the group or hoping to get out of the group. No when you spend that money you should be looking to win your group and go far in the competition.
In fact when you break it down and look at the other three teams in the group, there are even less excuses for why Manchester City shouldn’t be winning this group.
Starting with Juventus, yes they are the Serie A champions and yes they reached the final of last season’s Champions League but they have lost Carols Tevez, Arturo Vidal, and Andrea Pirlo this summer and they could yet lose Paul Pogba. Those three players were important in Juventus reaching the final last year, without them they will be weaker.
Sevilla too have lost a key player in Carlos Bacca to AC Milan this summer. Bacca scored twice in the Europa League final last season as Sevilla ran out 3-2 winners over Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk and 7 times in total over the course of the competition.
Monchengladbach finished third in the Bundesliga last season and they are the weakest team in the group.
Manchester City have not lost any of their key players this summer. The spine of their team has remained in place and they have strengthened with signings like Sterling and Otamendi.
They have a better team and a stronger squad than the three other teams and there are no long journeys to distant parts of Europe that are always tricky. This is their best chance yet in the Champions League to win their group so that they get a good draw in the first knockout round.
The problem for City seems to be a mental block, a lack of experience, or tactical failure.
Is it a mental block? There could be a lack of belief that they can win in Europe, which is odd because they have won the Premier League twice, along with the FA Cup and Capital One Cup. They have players who are winners. They’ve also beaten Bayern Munich in Europe, admittedly in a game that meant very little to Bayern Munich who had already won the group by that stage but it is the sort of thing that should give them confidence.
Is it a lack of experience? It shouldn’t be. Their players are all experienced ones. They’ve played multiple seasons in Europe. They have international experience. They have experience of winning trophies and big matches.
So is it their tactics? City seemed to struggle with the lesson that you can’t play in Europe the same way that they do in the Premier League. Playing two up front in Europe doesn’t work as it leaves the midfield outnumbered and that is where the game is won or lost most of the time.
Manuel Pellegrini looks like he might have learnt that lesson this season as he has had Manchester City playing with a lone striker and five man midfield but we have to wait and see how he it works in Europe.
There is no good reason Manchester City shouldn’t win their group in the Champions League this season, yet we think they will still struggle to get out of their group.