Manuel Pellegrini’s men will find out their opponents in Thursday’s draw, with every chance that the side could face three top opponents once more.
Manchester City may well have transformed themselves into seemingly perennial Premier League title challengers, but to date the new-found wealth the club has acquired has not seen progress in the Champions League.
Back-to-back ‘groups of deaths’ have prevented the Etihad Stadium side from making the knockout stages of Europe’s elite competition, which played a part in Roberto Mancini’s exit from the club over the summer.
However, with the group draw set to be made on Thursday and City in the third of four pots, there is every chance that Manuel Pellegrini will have to overcome a similarly tough pool this season.
Because teams cannot face others from the same country, and England’s other three representatives are in pot 1, City will face one of five: Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Porto or Benfica. They will pray for one of the Portuguese teams.
In pot 2, good-but-beatable sides such as Atletico Madrid, Shakhtar Dontesk, Marseille and CSKA Moscow would be a good result. AC Milan would provide a tricky opponent, while Paris Saint-Germain or Juventus would be nightmare opponents.
In pot 4, City will have the beating of most sides, but will look to avoid wildcard Napoli, who qualified from the first ‘group of death’ at the English side’s expense two seasons ago.
Regardless of who City draw, Pellegrini will be under huge pressure to deliver Champions League knockout football. After City won the Premier League in 2011-12, the club’s wealthy owners expect a domestic challenge every year. City, alongside Manchester United and Chelsea, should be in the running to be England’s top team this season.
However, with the amount of money spent at the Etihad Stadium this summer and an ever-expectant fanbase, elimination at the group stage once more is not an option, and could even be a telling factor in whether Pellegrini keeps his job.
Should City draw a nightmare group again, with their expenditure and the players at Pellegrini’s disposal, they should be good enough to mix it with Europe’s elite and secure a place in the last 16.
City’s home record domestically over the last number of seasons has been excellent, but their downfall in the Champions League has been poor results at the Etihad Stadium. If they can win their home games in their pool, they are as good as through.
Ahead of the draw here are City’s ideal and nightmare draws.
IDEAL – Benfica, Marseille, City and Austria Vienna
NIGHTMARE – Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, City and Napoli
image: © Jan S0L0