Manchester City’s domestic rise to prominence in recent years has been nothing short of stunning, with the Etihad Stadium outfit now perennial Premier League title challengers and one of the best teams in England.
However, the big-spending outfit has found the going decidedly tougher in Europe and has seldomly impressed in the Champions League over the last three years of participation.
Now in their fourth consecutive campaign in Europe’s top tournament, the chances of Manuel Pellegrini’s men bettering last year’s qualification to and eventual elimination from the round of 16 look bleak.
After four Group E games, a winless City sit bottom of the pile on two points and need to beat both Bayern Munich and Roma in their final fixtures to stand a chance of progression to the knockout rounds.
The nouveau riche side have been handed difficult groups consistently since their first participation in the competition, and this season is no different, but if City want to compete with the best teams in Europe this is a fate that must be accepted.
Defeat last time out at home to CSKA Moscow was a hammer blow to the team’s chances, as although the Russian outfit are seasoned campaigners in the tournament, Pellegrini’s men have much more quality in their side.
Despite the magnitude of the task that lies in wait for City in their efforts to qualify, the current English champions should look at it as a golden opportunity to finally prove themselves on the continent and announce themselves as serious challengers.
Should they win their remaining two games against established European sides, other results go their way and a passage through to the knockout stages be ascertained, most other teams in the hat would surely sit up, take notice and want to avoid City.
The task is certainly significant, but by no means impossible; especially given the pedigree of the players at Pellegrini’s disposal.
City host Bayern at the Etihad Stadium tonight in what will be the sixth competitive meeting of the sides since the English outfit’s introduction to the Champions League in 2011.
The Premier League side have reason for optimism despite the quality of the opposition.
Two victories in five games against the Bundesliga giants is a better return than most other sides can boast, while the last two meetings in particular will give City belief that they can overcome the German powerhouses.
A sensational victory at the Allianz Arena last season and a narrow 1-0 defeat there this term, which included a last-minute Jerome Boateng goal, show that the English team have what it takes to go head-to-head with Pep Guardiola’s world-class side.
With Die Roten already through to the next stage after winning their first four games, there is potential for the Spanish coach to rotate his squad which may work in the hosts’ favour, while influential captain Philipp Lahm is unavailable through injury.
That said, the ultra-competitive Guardiola will not want to lose in England, while Bayern are in impenetrable form having not experienced defeat since the loss to Borussia Dortmund in the pre-season Super Cup.
Since then it has been 18 games, 15 wins and three draws for Guardiola’s Bavarian steamroller; 49 goals scored and only seven conceded.
If a favourable result is recorded tonight, City would then need to go to the Stadio Olimpico and beat an ever-improving Roma side, hoping that CSKA lose simultaneously in Germany.
Rudi Garcia’s men have won all seven of their home games this season apart from the 7-1 annihilation at the hands of Bayern in October and posed a prickly opponent in their 1-1 draw with City in England.
The Giallorossi have forged a strong team bond and possess a nice blend of experience and promise in their squad, making them a difficult proposition for Pellegrini’s charges.
However, City will take solace from the manner of Roma’s capitulation against Bayern on home soil and man-for-man look to have a stronger team than the Italians.
It will not be easy. City must be at their best to stand a chance of progression and even two victories may not be enough if CSKA kick-on from their victory in England.
However, it is time for Pellegrini’s men to make a statement in Europe; victory against one of the best teams in the world tonight would be an excellent start.