Champions League preview: Manchester City
By Harry Deacon
The race for the Premier League trophy is well under way. City are breathing down Liverpool’s necks, patiently waiting for any sign of a slip-up from Klopp’s men. After successive draws to Leicester and West Ham, the Merseyside outfit have been reeled back in by their Mancunian neighbours.
As Liverpool have begun to falter, it seems that city’s defeat to Newcastle was just the wake up call they needed. Since that loss at St. James’ Park, Aguero’s six goals in three games have been essential in putting Arsenal, Everton, and Chelsea to the sword.
However, Europe is a completely different ball game. City have so far been unable to crack Europe’s top competition, coming closest back in 2015/16. Defeated by eventual winners Real Madrid in the semi-finals, surely City fans would have hoped for the club to push on in the next few seasons, not fall back.
The following years have brought much European heartache for the citizens. Disappointingly losing out to an inferior, albeit exciting, Monaco side in 2016/17. Then, crushingly bending to Liverpool’s will in their road to Kiev last season in a thrilling two—legged encounter.
This year, City will be hoping to balance both their domestic and European ambitions. Pep Guardiola clearly has much talent and depth at his disposal so even when the title race hots up further, the Champions League should not be ignored.
Group F proved to be fairly straightforward for last season’s Premier League centurions. The two Shakhtar Donetsk games were a formality ending 6-0 and 3-0; no surprises there. David Silva managed to net in both matches while Brazilian wonderkid Gabriel Jesus grabbed a brace in the six—goal thrashing.
German opposition showed to be slightly tougher for the Premier League leaders. Hoffenheim put up a fight in both games but history repeated itself with two 2-1 scorelines. David Silva scored once again, while Sane got himself two goals in the final game of the group stage.
However, City showed a rather weak side to their usual brilliance when coming up against a side Guardiola had nothing but praise for. Lyon managed a 2-2 draw at The Etihad and a 2-1 victory at the Groupama Stadium. “Incredible,” is what Pep called Lyon’s young centre midfielder, Houssem Aouar.
The last 16 has not been the Citzens’ greatest ally in recent times. As mentioned, Monaco sent them home in 2017, and Barcelona ended City’s European hopes in both 2014 and 2015, the latter being the year the Catalonians lifted the trophy.
This year, City come up against struggling Schalke. The Bundesliga side have found themselves way down in 14th after a torrid start to the season that has continued after the winter break, as they have only one once since December 22nd.
Schalke’s European story, however, has been completely different to their domestic woes. The German side were handed an interesting group, with Lokomotiv Moscow the top seed the group was opened up.
Finishing on 11 points, only behind Porto, Schalke cannot be perceived as a pushover. This, paired with the Manchester club’s relative youth on the European stage, could provide an upset. However, with the form of City and the talent at their disposal they should have enough about them to see them through to the quarter finals.