Manchester City and Europe have a strange relationship. Every year they are strongly fancied and every year they fail to get their hands on the Champions League trophy. Which is bizarre because Old Big Ears is the one piece of silverware the richest club in the world covets over everything else.
From shock defeat to Lyon, to a defeat for the ages against Real Madrid, to an underwhelming loss in the final to Chelsea the richest club in the final, City just cannot get over the line. Not just that but if you look at the club’s record in the competition, it’s not that great. Just three appearances in the semi-finals over the past 11 seasons is far from acceptable for a club of its supreme wealth and successful domestic record.
Why mention it now? Well, the first leg against Leipzig was in someway a microcosm of their European escapades of the past 11 years. During the first half Pep Guardiola’s side were so dominant in the first half they could, and should, have killed the tie off as a contest there and then. But in the second period the hosts managed to wrestle control and got back into the clash with a well-deserved equaliser. So from early, dominant promise, to limp, underwhelming disappointment – a line that sums up every season in the Champions League for City.
They are still favourites to make it through to the quarter-finals but they cannot afford (i) to let big chances go begging as they did in Germany, and (ii) go into their shells. They may well need a raucous Etihad to help them, which considering they sometimes struggle to sell out European ties at home, could be a problem.
Guardiola is under no illusions that the Champions League is what he’ll be judged on and that victory tonight is of paramount importance.
“Yes. That doesn’t mean I agree with that but, absolutely, we’ll be judged for that competition,” The Man City manager said.
“My first Champions League game here (in 2016), they asked, ‘Are you here to win the Champions League?’ If I was manager for Real Madrid I could understand, but I accept it. As much as we go through, it’s not going to change that.”
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