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Leagues: Champions League

Which Man City will turn up for the remainder of the season?

Manchester City’s form has varied this season. They claimed ten consecutive victories across all competitions in their excellent start to the campaign before a draw at Celtic began a six game winless streak, which saw them humiliated by Barcelona, outplayed by both Spurs and Manchester United, and took only a point each from their fixtures with Everton and Southampton.

Despite some positive results since then, such as a 3-1 win over Barcelona in the return fixture and a victory over Arsenal, Pep Guardiola’s side have not looked as strong as they were at the start of the season. Even since the time they defeated Barcelona, they were completely outplayed by Chelsea in their own back yard and fell to the leaders 3-1 before they found themselves 4-0 down at Leicester and lost by that scoreline to Everton.

This series of poor results has ended their title campaign at a relatively early stage of the season. Despite their solid form since the turn of the year, City’s draw at Stoke will surely put a halt to what was already a long shot at the title.

All is far from lost, however. The gap between them and leaders Chelsea says rather little about their record and performances since the beginning of 2017. Should the momentum of their current form spark more results, cup silverware could be in reach for Manchester City.

Their Champions League first-leg victory over Monaco was immense. The French club have not been among Europe’s elite in recent years, but are just about as strong as any side this season. Their fantastic season has sent them to the top of Ligue 1 and in a strong position to deny PSG their fifth consecutive title and possibly even further domestic dominance.

Despite their awful defending against Monaco in the 5-3 victory, City can take pride in the manner of their result. Monaco’s status as the top scorers in Europe’s top five leagues may even excuse the Etihad side’s defensive display at least to a certain extent. The abundance of Monaco’s goals throughout the season speaks to not only their attacking quality but how difficult a task it is to defend against them. However, the role of sloppy play in Monaco’s first and third goals will certainly upset Guardiola.

City’s response to Monaco’s three away goals was a reflection of quality and their progression on the European stage. Despite two places in the losing end of the score throughout the match (2-1 and 3-2), Guardiola’s side responded with determination and dominated the final minutes of the match as they scored three goals to lead the tie.

While their defense was dreadful, City were strong in several areas against one of Europe’s top clubs on a second occasion this season. They outplayed Spanish champions Barcelona in a similar manner when the two sides met for a second time earlier in the completion. City have struggled even when victorious against the likes of Bayern Munich and PSG in previous years, but have managed to provide Europe’s elite sides with a difficult challenge this season.

Should these performances continue, a place in the advanced stages of the tournament may await the Etihad outfit. Of course, it is no given that they will continue, but what is clear is that when at their best, Manchester City can compete with just about anyone else in Europe.

SEE MORE: Schedule of Manchester City games on US TV and streaming

In order to ensure progression, the improvement of their defense is vital. Further defensive displays of such poor quality could well prevent their passage to the quarter finals, let alone a deeper run in the tournament.

A strong Champions League campaign is within City’s grasp, though this run will require improvement. As Chelsea’s surrender of a ten point lead at the top of the Premier League looks unlikely, the FA Cup is Manchester City’s most likely route to a piece of silverware this season.

The math is quite simple: City are two games away from an FA Cup trophy. They can defeat Arsenal in the semi-final and challenge Chelsea or Spurs in the final. City’s squad has more quality than any other side in England does. They can win these games.

It all buckles down to form. City’s recent string of positive results could simply be a false dawn. City’s inconsistency has more than likely cost them the Premier League title and could place their top four position in danger. What’s certain is that similar performances to those at Everton and against Chelsea will reward nothing.

Consistency of positive results and strong performances could still reward something. Though expectations will increase, a strong run in the UEFA Champions League, regardless of whether they lift the trophy, would be a solid start to Pep Guardiola’s spell at the club, as would an FA Cup.

Prior to their draw at Stoke, there might have been potential for City to pile serious pressure on Antonio Conte’s Chelsea. Though Chelsea are now well clear of Manchester City with their lead, City have both the opportunity and the quality to produce some positive results from in their two cup tournaments. It just depends on which City turn up.

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