Man City evolving in Champions League under Pep Guardiola

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While Manchester City’s financial might and excessive spending are without a doubt the primary forces behind their rise to the top of English football, both Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini deserve credit as well. Though both were dismissed by the club, the two managers were able to build excellent sides and to guide City to numerous pieces of silverware. The work of both managers allowed the Manchester outfit to cement their place as one of the most powerful clubs in England.

However, their inability to achieve such success on the European stage was a rather significant factor in their departures. Roberto Mancini failed to guide them past the group stage in either of City’s first two seasons in the competition, the second of which they failed to record a single victory and finished bottom of their group.

Although Pellegrini’s side managed to progress to the knockout stages, it failed to impress once there. City were eliminated for two consecutive seasons by Barcelona in the round of sixteen and were not only beat but outplayed in all four clashes with the Spanish giants. They managed to reach the semi-final of the competition in Pellegrini’s third and final season in charge, but offered little against Real Madrid and failed to challenge them, despite the close aggregate score of 1-0.

Neither manager was able to emulate their domestic success in European competition. Prior to City’s second match against Barcelona, it appeared as if current manager Pep Guardiola would struggle to do so as well. Although victorious against Borussia Monchengladbach, they had to equalize the score three times against Celtic just to leave Scotland with one point. They were then completely dominated by Barcelona and fell by four goals. No improvement in European competition was evident.

Well, it wasn’t yet.

City fell behind early on against the Catalans, but outclassed their opponents after they leveled the score. Pep Guardiola’s side pin-pointed Barcelona into their own half and deservedly took the lead through Kevin De Bruyne’s brilliant free-kick.
Even after taking the lead, they still looked more likely to add a third than Barca did a second. They created numerous chances and eventually converted when Gundogan tapped in his second of the game. They shut Barcelona out of the game from then on, and nearly increased their lead on several occasions.

City’s performance was arguably their best in the Champions League since their arrival to the competition. Though they had beaten Bayern Munich several times under Pellegrini and once under Mancini, they did so with no degree of dominance. Never had they performed so well against a side of Barcelona’s quality under either manager.

While it was only one match, it demonstrated City’s ability to compete amongst Europe’s best. The English giants, though humiliated in the previous European match, proved as tough an opponent to the Catalans as Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, and Bayern Munich have been in recent years.

Should their future performances correspond to this one, it may not be long before City extend their dominance beyond England. On Wednesday night, Manchester City plays Borussia Monchengladbach again. Based on their recent performance against Barcelona, City will be brimming with confidence thanks to Guardiola’s impact on this team.

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