Even if City do what no-one has managed to do in the 2011/12 season and tear Bayern Munich to pieces at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday, the likelihood is that Mancini’s men will still be dumped out of the Champions League at the conclusion of the Group Stages.
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So why exactly does a team that sweeps all before it so imperiously in domestic action stutter so readily on the European stage,Von Miller Jersey? Why does an outfit that scores almost at will in the Premiership come unstuck when it comes to bulging the net in the Champions League? City have scored a staggering 48 goals in their 14 domestic games to date. That’s an average of just under three and a half goals per game, home and away. Which is phenomenal, really. In Europe,Nick Mangold Jersey, meanwhile, it’s just seven scores in five games, which brings the average crashing right down to 1.4 goals per match. That’s some difference. City have yet to lose in the Premiership. Yet in Europe they’ve already suffered two defeats.
So two minutes on the draw, then,Doug Baldwin Jersey. Despite having walloped United 6-1 at Old Trafford in the league, City couldn’t have been handed a more difficult game with which to start the defence of the trophy they won last year, the cup that we hope is the first of many. United will be smarting from that embarrassing league defeat, of course, and will want nothing more than to gain revenge on their rivals’ turf, while dumping City out of the FA Cup at the same time. It’s a prize worth fighting for,Donald Driver Packers Jersey. Of course home advantage will be important, but there’s no more difficult English side to face than wily old United. Of course Sir Alex Ferguson’s mob won’t exactly be relishing a trip across the city to take on the Sky Blues, either. We’re the form team of the moment and offer an offensive threat from every part of the pitch. And as I said, we know what we’re dealing with in domestic competitions these days. A City side managed by Mancini in his very earliest days in charge was beaten by United over two legs in the semi-final of the League Cup back in early 2010. But that team wasn’t in the same league as the outfit Mancini is putting out these days. So at the end of the day you’d have to back the Blues to take the honours over the Reds, even if they’ll have to fight every step of the way to earn the right to progress.
In a week where the Blues again underlined their attacking credentials with a five-goal ‘at a canter’ romp against Norwich in the English Premiership, the dream of taking Europe’s top competition by storm at the first time of asking looks like remaining unfulfilled and we’ll have to try again next season, possibly as Premiership Champions. Defeats in Munich and Naples in Group A, together with a home draw against the Italians, means the bald truth is that City simply haven’t deserved to progress this time around. And relying on the group’s whipping boys Villarreal to do us a favour by beating Napoli in their last game is like looking for Christmas in August. While City continue to dominate the domestic league with almost embarrassing ease, Europe has been a horse of an entirely different colour.
Former Man United defender-turned-UK-TV-pundit Gary Neville isn’t a man I’d normally like to credit with anything other than a brilliant assist for Shaun Goater’s City goal in the 2002 Maine Road derby. But he hit the nail on the head when he explained that Champions League football is unlike any other and that it demands an entirely different approach. Neville knows a thing or two about elite European competition and said that Man United needed two or three seasons simply to adjust to the different demands that the Champions League imposes,Doug Baldwin Seahawks Jersey. It’s more cagey, there are fewer chances on offer and there’s a greater need for 90-minute defensive concentration than in the English league. And City have clearly been found wanting in this department this season.
There’s no shame in that. City have come from a standing start to being one of Europe’s better outfits in what is effectively the blink of an eye. Yes, they’ve had mega millions invested, but then again,Arian Foster Jersey, how much did Liverpool splash out before the start of this campaign? It’s not just investment that brings reward, but time and the appreciation of a learning curve. It’s particularly heartening, therefore, to read City owner Sheik Mansour recently emphasising the need for patience as the club tries to build a dynasty. Mansour spelt out that even if City were to fail in the Champions League this season, then this would in no way invalidate either the project or Roberto Mancini’s achievements to date; that this is a long-term investment designed to create a sustainable and enduring club and that setbacks are all part and parcel of the process. After all, sport – and football in particular – isn’t an exact science. The news that City had drawn Manchester United in the FA Cup Third Round, news that came through just as I was writing this column, amply proves that football is also about the unexpected and the illogical. It’s what gives it its flavour and its enduring appeal.
…but it’s not the end of the world. Soccer 365’s Howard Johnson isn’t too stressed about City’s showing in Europe this season. We’re still sweeping all before us in the domestic game and there’ll be chances in the Champions League for years to come