16 Dec Defeat to RB Leipzig suggests Manchester City are still vulnerable in the Champions League
It’s no secret that Manchester City’s chief ambition is to win the Champions League. It is the one major honour missing from the club’s trophy cabinet, and there is a lingering sense that the team have underachieved in Europe by not claiming the Champions League title under the reign of Pep Guardiola as of yet.
Last year, they came as close as they ever have, reaching the final but losing to Chelsea in Porto despite being the favourites on the betting exchange Betdaq. In prior seasons under Guardiola, they had failed to get beyond the quarter-final stages, falling short against the likes of Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and RB Leipzig.
Indeed, Leipzig recently dealt Manchester City another knock in the Champions League, defeating the English league champions 2-1 in the final group game of the 2021-22 competition. City’s passage to the knockout rounds as group winners was already confirmed before the match took place, but Guardiola will disappointed to have ended the group stage on a sour note.
The loss raises further questions about City’s vulnerability in Europe’s premier club competition. They also lost to Paris Saint-Germain earlier in the group stage, and while they’ll be happy to go through in first place, there is a sense that this team could be there for the taking.
City seem to have suffered from a mental block of sorts in the Champions League in recent seasons. Their quarter-final collapses are well documented, but even after they finally made it to the final last season, they seemed to freeze like a rabbit in the headlights. Guardiola implemented some strange tactical manoeuvres in that match against Chelsea, and Thomas Tuchel’s side had a much easier time of things than they should have against a team so talented.
A favourable draw in the last 16 will be key to City building confidence ahead of another tilt at winning the Champions League. You feel that, if the team were to reach the final once again, Guardiola would not shake things up tactically in the same way — that he will have learned from his mistakes in Porto. After all, Manchester City have one of the best squads in world football, and that should be enough to claim Europe’s biggest prize at least once before Guardiola leaves for pastures new.
Standing in their way are a plethora of strong contenders in this year’s competition. Bayern Munich are seen as the main threat to City’s chances, but the likes of Liverpool, defending champions Chelsea, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain will all be hoping to have a say.
A worrying aspect of City’s defeat in Leipzig was that the team lost their composure. Kyle Walker was given a straight red card for a wild kick on André Silva, and it’s that kind of frustration that must be curbed if City are to have any chance of landing the Champions League title this season.
The fact that City are engaged in a dogged title fight in the Premier League could also hinder their chances, but you feel that they should have the wherewithal to cope. There are plenty of doubts surrounding City, but if they can hit form at the right time then they’ll have a great chance of ending that wait for Champions League glory.