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Manchester City’s 2-For-1 Ticket Initiative Was Admirable, But Performances Are Vital To Stir Champions League Interest

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Empty seats at the Etihad Stadium has long been the most pertinent source of ammunition for cheap jibes at Manchester City. Sky blue specs have regularly been seen scattered about Eastlands on Champions League evenings in years gone by, and after another drab atmosphere was conjured against AS Roma in their previous European home match, the City hierarchy decided enough was enough.

Recently, the club decided to offer a “buy one get one free” initiative for supporters in an attempt to get the Etihad not only full for their critical clash with CSKA Moscow—the away fans were banned from attending the game—but bouncing for a 90 minutes that needed to yield three points.

It was an admirable ploy from the club and the match was a subsequent sell out. Typically, Champions League tickets for English club grounds range between an often unaffordable £50-£70, so City deserve praise in spades for not only making prices more accessible for their supporters, but noting that there was room for improvement with the stadium’s atmosphere and looking to do something about it.

But the club’s hierarchy can only do so much, and after Manuel Pellegrini’s side slumped to a hugely underwhelming 2-1 defeat to the Russian outfit, another disappointing chapter was written in City’s abject recent European history.

I was at this one using the “free” ticket of a City-supporting friend and while the crowd noise was decent, it didn’t seem quite as substantial, or indeed as influential, as when I’ve visited as an away supporter. For such an important game, it was peculiar to savor, especially with the stadium packed out, and strikingly, come the final whistle the fans didn’t really seem that fussed about their team’s European hopes being on the cusp of obliteration.

In truth, it was as if the supporters in attendance didn’t really know what they’re capable of. It was as if they don’t know how to conjure a big European night like those we’ve seen at Anfield and to a lesser extent, Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge, not to mention how such a raucous atmosphere can effect opposition. A look back at their recent marquee clashes at home in the competition might afford an indication as to why.

City have welcomed the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Roma, Napoli and Ajax to the Etihad since Sheikh Mansour’s monetary backing expedited a return to Europe’s elite. But as of yet—aside from a dead rubber clash against a shadow Bayern XI—they’ve yet to beat a single one of those teams in front of their home supporters. For a squad that has such quality within their ranks, that’s simply unforgivable.

It’d be results like those aforementioned, on big nights against illustrious opposition, which capture supporters’ attentions and conjure those iconic atmospheres. They’d be occasions that would be used as a benchmark for big games to come. Games like Liverpool’s wins over Olympiacos in their successful 2005 campaign, the Blues’ triumph over Barcelona at Stamford Bridge in 2012 and United’s win over the Catalonians in 2008.

City haven’t had quite as long as Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea to formulate traditions for these European evenings. But one sure-fire way speeding to process up is by beating these giants of European football, stirring supporter emotions under the floodlights and revealing to those in attendance that they can have a major say on things. It’d surely make the Etihad a much more difficult venue to take points from.

There are those who’ll put the onus on the supporters to rock up and create an atmosphere regardless, but it’s simply not that easy. As sad as it may seem, fans that turn up for a midweek clash often need a trigger to awaken fully from their post nine-to-five slumber. They need something, tangible or intangible, to inspire them, like a purposeful display on the field or even the memory of a stellar European night gone by.

City have neither at this juncture. And after another moribund display against Moscow, they’re on the brink of another early European exit. And for plenty of those of a sky blue persuasion, it’s something that’s been greeted with a shrug of the shoulders and an immediate glance towards their next Premier League fixture.

But it’s worth bearing in mind that the Champions League is a magnificent competition, one that can create nights that get etched into the consciousness of supporters from across the continent. Winning the European Cup is a measure of a truly great side too, a totem that everyone at the club is surely striving towards.

City and their supporters have yet to sample the tournament in it’s rawest and most wonderful form; the onus must fall on the players and the manager to produce performances that are befitting of their quality, and ensure they do so.

Follow Matt on Twitter @MattJFootball

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Flyvanescence

    November 6, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    The main reason for the drab atmosphere is City fans’ apathy toward the Champions League, or, more accurately, frustration with UEFA: FFP, the debacle of a closed doors match in Moscow and UEFA ignoring the situation, awful refereeing decisions against us time after time while the established “elite” get bailed out often (i hate to complain about refs because their job is hard, but the pattern is hard to ignore. UEFA is too corrupt to simply dismiss this).

    Our poor performances also havent helped.

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