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Assessing Manchester City’s Champions League Assault

Posted on | December 1, 2017 | No Comments

Manchester City are already looking like a formidable outfit in the Premier League, and a third title in six years could well be on the way to the Etihad Stadium, with Pep Guardiola’s side looking in irresistible form during the first half of the season, blowing opponents away with some outstanding attacking play, which has been matched by much improved defensive performances.

After the disappointment of last season’s third-placed finish, where City finished a mammoth 15 points behind eventual champions Chelsea, a serious assault on the Premier League title was the least expected from Guardiola’s side, particularly after another summer of high-profile arrivals, as City’s squad underwent some fine-tuning.

It is hard to see past City picking up the Premier League title in May, with Guardiola’s squad seemingly miles ahead of the chasing pack, including city rivals, Manchester United, who are struggling to find the same style as their once noisy neighbours.

However, the question most City supporters will be asking is whether they can make a genuine assault on the Champions League for the first time in their history. City were beaten semi-finalists in the 2015/16 competition, with Real Madrid, eventual champions, knocking the Sky Blues out of the competition at the final hurdle before the final.

In this year’s competition, City have made short work of their group, with Guardiola’s side breezing through to the knockout stage of the competition with relative ease, which has left them amongst the favourites to lift the famous European trophy, with odds of 9/2 offered in the football betting markets, with only Neymar’s PSG priced at shorter odds than the Premier League leaders.

City are priced at shorter odds than current holders, Real Madrid, as well as Barcelona and Bayern Munich, two of Guardiola’s former clubs. The former Barca and Bayern boss has brought a distinct style to City, which has been particularly evident this season, with Guardiola deserving of huge credit for finding a way to fit both David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne centrally into a system without his midfield finding themselves overrun. However, there are still questions as to whether City’s style will be strong enough to withstand Europe’s later stages.

Fernandinho is key to City’s style, sitting disciplined in front of a back four, allowing full-backs – recently Kyle Walker and Fabian Delph – freedom to get forward without leaving the side short of defensive cover. So far this season it has worked for Guardiola’s side, with the likes of De Bruyne, Silva, Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane and Sergio Aguero or Gabriel Jesus allowed to stream forward with wave after wave of attack.

However, with it highly likely that some of Europe’s elite will be standing in City’s way later in the Champions League, Guardiola may have to reassess his system and find a way of giving a so far comfortable defence a little bit more protection.

It is looking more and more likely that Guardiola will be toasting Premier League success in May next year, but there is no doubt that City and their ambitious owners will have other ambitions in Europe. If Guardiola is to deliver in club football’s biggest competition, he might have to tighten City’s defence by sacrificing part of their free-flowing attack.

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