Following their 5-3 win over AC Milan and narrow defeat to a full-strength Bayern Munich, are City realistic contenders for the Champions League?
Hot on the heels of their Asia Cup success, Manchester City faced Bayern Munich in the final of the Audi Cup on Thursday. And while the level of competition increased considerably, City didn’t look out of place. In fact they looked very much at home.
Manuel Pellegrini’s summer signings have been both swift and smart – and all four bring something new and exciting to the Blues’ squad.
Suddenly they have a quartet of quality strikers (with none of the baggage former players Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli carried in abundance), while the arrival of the former Malaga coach is a signing every bit as important as the likes of Jesus Navas and Alvaro Negredo; more so in fact, because Pellegrini has both the nous and the experience in the Champions League to inspire City to success in Europe’s elite competition.
It may be jumping the gun to declare them potential winners just yet. But their performances against AC Milan and Bayern suggest a team very much on the up.
On Thursday evening, the German treble-winners fielded arguably their full strength side: nine of their starting line-up kicked off the Champions League final back in May.
City on the other hand started without Joe Hart, Matija Nastasic, David Silva, Yaya Toure, Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero. And still they gave Bayern a game.
Their performance owed much to the heroics of Costel Pantilimon and Vincent Kompany; but then that is football. To say they narrowly avoided a hiding is akin to saying the efforts of any footballer in the history of the game somehow shielded an alternative truth.
The simple fact is City gave the European champions a run for their money, narrowly losing 2-1 after a harsh handball judgement led to an equalising penalty for Pep Guardiola’s side.
As a workout for the new campaign, City’s pre-season has been better than most – revitalising Dzeko, settling the new players in and showing them they can compete with Europe’s finest.
And whether or not Pellegrini’s team face Bayern again this season, the truth is City are in considerably better shape now than they were at the end of Roberto Mancini’s reign.
The club’s news arrivals – both manager and players – point to the next stage in their evolution that may ultimately lead to the biggest trophy of them all.
Do you believe City are on the path to Champions League success?
image: © andyjakeman