5 factors crucial for Manchester City to win the Champions League this season
- Enumerating the factors that may prove decisive in Manchester City's quest to land their maiden Champions League trophy.
- Manchester City have the personnel and the manager to resurrect an underwhelming season by going all the way in the Champions League.
It has not been the season that Pep Guardiola and Manchester City had hoped for. The Premier League title race is as good as over as Juergen Klopp's Liverpool are a proverbial country mile ahead with a handful of games left in the season. Not winning the Premier League for the third time in a row will sting Guardiola and his side, but this seems like the perfect opportunity to go for the big prize - the UEFA Champions League.
Manchester City have had their eyes on European club football's blue riband event for quite a while. But they have never managed to progress past the semifinals in the competition.
The Manchester-based club has one of the best, if not the best, squad in Europe and one of the best managers in the history of the game. Pep Guardiola has won the Champions League twice during his managerial career. Manchester City put together a robust performance to come from behind to beat Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu in February in a Round of 16 tie.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak happened, it has been four months since Manchester City celebrated that memorable win. Yet that win could probably be the one that resurrects Manchester City's underwhelming season if the club manages to go all the way in the Champions League.
To win the tournament where the best of the best compete against each other, a lot of things would need to go Manchester City's way. On that note, we look at five crucial factors that could determine if Manchester City become the newest winners of the UEFA Champions League.
Five factors that could determine if Manchester City win the 2019-20 UEFA Champions League:
1) Pep Guardiola and his out-of-the-world tactics:
Pep Guardiola has won trophies at all three clubs he has managed. The 49-year-old Spaniard is considered one of the best managers in the world right now. The consistency of teams under him makes him one of the most highly reputed coaches in football history. Sheikh Mansour had the UEFA Champions League trophy in mind when he appointed Pep Guardiola but the plan hasn't worked out yet.
It's been nine years since Pep Guardiola last laid his hands on the UEFA Champions League, the undoubtedly the one title he most cherishes. It was in 2011 when Pedro, Lionel Messi and David Villa along with that monster Barcelona side lit up Wembley in one of the all-time great European performances. However, since moving to Bayern Munich in 2013, Pep Guardiola has enjoyed a significant level of success in domestic football, but the Champions League has proved elusive.
The 'Pep Roulette' has been an irritating thorn for FPL as well as real-life managers. It is impossible to predict what Pep Guardiola might do, which is why opposing teams find it tough to play against sides managed by the Spaniard.
We know Guardiola loves to rotate but does he overdo it at times? A very recent example in this regard is Manchester City's Champions League quarterfinal against Tottenham last year. Pep Guardiola did not include Kevin de Bruyne in the starting eleven of the first leg, despite the Belgian midfielder playing against Brighton in the previous game..
Another such instance was seen during Bayern Munich's Champions League semifinal against Barcelona in 2015. The likes of Philipp Lahm, Xabi Alonso and Bastian Schweinsteiger struggled to keep up with the Barcelona midfield and attack and ended up conceding three goals in the last 15 minutes. Guardiola's very attacking 4-2-4 formation against Real Madrid saw Bayern Munich being absolutely hammered in the 2014 Champions League semifinal.
No one questions Pep Guardiola's tactics and gameplan because of what he has achieved during his managerial career. While that is a very fair point, maybe it is time for him to stick to his best eleven and not try something extraordinary every now and then.
2) The form of Kevin De Bruyne
When Manchester City play well, it is more often than not that Kavin de Bruyne is at the heart of it. It has been that kind of a season for Kevin de Bruyne who just seems unmatched right now. It seems that the Belgian is making up for the time he lost last season because of injuries.
De Bruyne tops the 2019-20 Premier League assists list and has scored eight goals for Manchester City in the competition this season. He looks ready to break Thierry Henry's record of most assists in a season. De Bruyne ranks top for chances created, chances created from open play and even expected assists, which measures the quality of those chances. In other words, there is nobody in the Premier League operating at Kevin de Bruyne's level right now.
Another aspect to notice about De Bruyne this season has been his penchant to step up as a leader on the pitch for Manchester City. The Belgian has taken on more responsibilities since Vincent Kompany left Manchester City at the end of last season, stepping up for penalty duties as well.
Kevin de Bruyne has been ridiculously good for Manchester City this season and will be the key player if City are to win the Champions League.
3) The return of Leroy Sane
The last year has been crazy for Leroy Sane. The German suffered knee ligament damage in Manchester City's victory over Liverpool in the Community Shield back in August 2019. Leroy Sane has revealed that his extensive injury-enforced period on the sidelines this season has been the hardest spell of his career.
Whether he will play in a Manchester City shirt again regardless of his fitness is another story altogether. The ongoing speculation linking him with Bayern Munich might play a part but Sane is too good a player to not be utilised. Sane’s most prominent attributes are his key passes and finishes.
In 134 games for Manchester City, the 24-year-old has amassed a total of 39 goals and 45 assists that add up to 84 goal contributions. Sane plays as a winger in the most competitive squad in the world, under arguably the most demanding football manager.
Sane has been a very crucial player for Pep Guardiola's Manchester City. His return is a very big positive for the side. The German is one of the deadliest wingers in the world and combines well with his partners-in-crime Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling. If Sane were to leave Manchester City at the end of this season, he would like to do so on a high by inspiring his club to the Champions League title.
4) The injury-free Aymeric Laporte
There are very few doubters that a fit Aymeric Laporte transforms the potential of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City team. He seems to be a player who matches Virgil Van Dijk's ability, but Manchester City have missed him for large swathes this season due to his plethora of injuries. Laporte has played seven Premier League games, but his absence has been felt in the goals Manchester City have conceded in the competition this season.
It is not very common that one man changes the back-line of a team and how his absence disrupts everything. Laporte seems to be that man for Manchester City. The club seems to have squad depth in every other position except in central defence. Pep Guardiola has admitted that Laporte has been a very big miss for Manchester City this season. The manager also said that Laporte has all the attributes and that he is the best left-central defender in the world.
Laporte started against Real Madrid in the Champions League Round of 16 first leg game this season but was forced off after 33 minutes. Pep Guardiola later indicated that Laporte was taken out early as the player had just returned after a knee injury that kept him out for five months.
The good news on that front now is that Laporte is back and fit as ever. Laporte transforms a shaky Manchester City back-line into a rock-solid one and is as vital as Kevin de Bruyne if Manchester City are to challenge for the Champions League title this season.
5) Mentality and composure
And here it is. Probably the most important factor of them all.
Let's start with two games to accentuate this point: Manchester City's Champions League Round of 16 clash against Monaco in 2017 and their quarterfinal clash in the same competition against Tottenham Hotspur last season. On paper, Manchester City should have had these games done and dusted, but that's not how football works, right? Both the games had a similar story of the underdog beating the superior side in thrilling encounters.
Both games were high-scoring affairs where Manchester City apparently forgot how to defend and completely lose their composure. They ended up playing with ten attackers and created a gazillion chances but missed most of them. It's like a pattern that has unfolded far too often for Manchester City in the Champions League.
As a football fan, it is tough to comprehend about how Manchester City managed to lose these knockout games in similar fashion. Sloppy, wasteful, immature or whatever but it is something: Manchester City must get over these pitfalls if they want to stamp their authority in the Champions League.
Real Madrid would be a tough opponent for Manchester City in the return leg of the Round of 16. You look at Real Madrid and you see a sort of alpha attitude and a different type of swagger whenever they take the pitch. They seem to be a team who are made to play these big games.
So what will it be for Manchester City in the Champions League this season? Would it be the same old story or would Pep work his magic and win the 'Trophy With The Big Ears' ? Do let us know what you think in this respect and who will win the Champions League this season.Published 12 Jun 2020, 04:49 IST