Manchester City had their best ever run in the Champions League last season where they reached the semi-final of the premier competition in Europe, losing to Real Madrid 1-0 over two legs in the last four of the tournament.
As they came so close to lifting the trophy last year, City fans will be very confident their side can go all the way this time around, especially after beating Barcelona 3-1 at the Etihad Stadium in their recent group game encounter against the Spanish giants.
City were very dominant against Barcelona, despite trailing following Lionel Messi’s opener in the tie. They soon got back on level terms thanks to summer signing Ilkay Gundogan who has now scored four goals in his last two games. The German has been an excellent acquisition for Pep Guardiola’s side and has a wealth of experience in Europe which will prove invaluable this season. He was part of the Borussia Dortmund squad which reach the final of this competition in 2013 at Wembley when his side took on Bayern Munich. Sadly for Gundogan, Dortmund went down 2-1 but the the midfielder did score from the penalty spot in the second-half which brought his team level.
Kevin de Bruyne’s free-kick gave City the lead in the second-half of their victory over Barcelona. The Belgian struck the ball perfectly to beat Ter Stegen in the visitors’ goal. De Bruyne has arguably been City’s best player so far this season, and when fit, is one of the best midfielders in the world. His performance against Barcelona earned him the man of the match award in the game.
Gundogan’s second goal of the match was largely down to great work from Jesus Navas on the wing. The Spaniard came off the bench to cross the ball for Gundogan’s strike. Navas was a regular starter in this City line up last season under Manuel Pellegrini, however, due to the quality and form of other players this campaign, he has had to settle for a place on the bench; a sign of the depth Guardiola has in his squad for a tilt at four competitions, including the Champions League.
City can be now backed at Champions League odds of 10/1 to win the tournament on the back of their success against Barcelona which leaves them nicely poised to qualify for the last 16 of the competition. They have just Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid ahead of them in the outright market for the tournament.
Guardiola has won the Champions League twice as manager. He first did so in 2009 with Barcelona when his side defeated Manchester United 2-0 in Rome. Three years later, the same two sides met in the final at Wembley where Guardiola’s side won 3-1 to record his second winner’s medal in the competition. The Spaniard’s success in the Champions League is one of the reasons as to why City’s owners were so keen to hire the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager to replace Pellegrini.
City have already shown a huge improvement on last season in the last third of the pitch so far in the 2016/17 campaign. Although the defence has been shaky at times, it is a work in progress and if Guardiola can straighten out his back four, his side could go all the way in the Champions League this season in the final at the Millennium Stadium in Wales. The City boss will, however, need to use all the resources in his squad to ensure his side remain on track in the Premier League where they currently top the standings on 20 points, but are locked on the same tally as Liverpool and Arsenal.