Following Manchester City’s 1-1 home draw with AS Roma, questions are being asked about the reigning Premier League champions’ ability to perform in the Champions League.
Prior to the contest against Roma, City manager Manuel Pellegrini was asked about his squad’s chances of winning the European tournament:
“I am absolutely sure that Manchester City will eventually win the Champions League,” the Chilean boss responded. “It’s not the death of the club if we don’t win the Champions League this year. But I hope that this year we improve again.”
After witnessing City play second best to Roma for long spells at the Etihad on Tuesday night, most supporters would likely ask their manager when this set of City players will turn the corner and start performing on a consistent level in the European competition?
For the fourth time in successive seasons, Manchester City have failed to win their opening home group game in the Champions League.
While the draw against Roma isn’t a death sentence for the club, Manuel Pellegrini’s side have a tremendous amount of work to do over the final four matches of the group stage in order to ensure safe passage into the Round of 16 of the competition.
This is a position the English side have found themselves in since they returned to the Champions League during the 2011-12 season. City have finished in third, fourth and second in their Champions League groups since their return to the European tournament.
Last season, Manuel Pellegrini was able to rally his troops as Manchester City made a late charge to escape the group stages. But this club has been built for European football and it has performed inconsistently for far too long in this tournament.
Roberto Mancini was fired after four seasons in charge for failing to improve City’s Champions League fortunes – as well as for his ‘negative’ tactics and poor man-management skills. Pellegrini was then brought in for his entertaining style-of-play, and on the strength of his previous season’s European success. The Chilean boss guided Malaga to the quarter-finals of the competition in 2012-13, where they lost to the eventual Champions League finalist Borussia Dortmund.
Pellegrini is only in his second season with the club, so he can’t be expected to turn Manchester City into group winners overnight. Especially when they keep getting drawn against Europe’s top clubs in the opening stages of the tournament. But at some point this group of players has to start showing a Champions League ‘identity’.
Prior to Matchday One of the competition, AS Roma had been absent from the Champions League for three seasons. The Serie A side then opened their European account by defeating CSKA Moscow at home, 5-1. They then traveled to England – with a squad weakened by injuries – and held the reigning Premier League champions to a 1-1 draw.
City and Roma both possess players with previous Champions League experience, and both have managers who are working on their second season at their respective clubs. But Rudi Garcia’s side looked more comfortable under the bright lights of the European night, and looked the likeliest to accompany Bayern Munich into the Round of 16 of the competition.
Pellegrini’s tactics have been questioned. Pundits who once thought Roberto Mancini was being “too negative”, are now saying the club is “too open” in Europe; thus leaving the team exposed in defense.
The talented players who have been brought in and signed to lucrative, long-term contracts look as if they all suffer from a collective self-doubt in the Champions League. As a whole, the squad performs with a lack of conviction which is strange for a side that possesses so much quality and European experience.
So what is holding Manchester City back from performing consistently in the competition? Are these players just not mentally strong enough to handle the pressures of European football? Is this team good enough for England, but simply not good enough to beat Europe’s best teams regularly? Is Manuel Pellegrini a step up from Roberto Mancini, but not the man to lead City to Champions League glory?
The questions are baffling.
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