Nov 23, 2011

Suddenly, Man City's Season is on the Brink

Yesterday's 2-1 loss at Napoli has left Manchester City in a very precarious position in their Champions League group. Citizens now have to defeat Bayern Munich in the final matchday and hope Napoli somehow draw or lose at Villareal. The same Villareal that have a whopping zero (0) points from five Champions League games this season and sit 12th in the Spanish liga.

So things certainly don't look good for Robert Mancini's men. And the stakes are very large indeed. How large are we talking? Put it this way: Failure to advance to the Champions League quarterfinals would render City's season a disappointment. So much so that not even a first-ever Premiership title would lessen the pain much.

The financial implications alone are massive. With UEFA Fair Play rules set to go into effect, lack of television income from the knockout stages would take a major toll on City's ability to maintain their fabulous payroll. And if Man City exit the Champions League at this early stage, we will never know how good this team might be in the grand scheme of things.

That would be a real shame because judging by some of their better performances this season, Man City look like they could have the potential to go down as one of the great teams of the century. But for that to happen they need to prove themselves in Europe. And we aren't talking the Europa League either. It's Champions League or bust for these guys.

Defeating Bayern Munich may in fact be the easiest part of this. The Germans have first place in the group locked up so theres nothing to play for. The match at Eastlands comes in the middle of a four game stretch in 13 days for Jupp Heynckes's side. Expect Bayern to commit the wholly un-German act of falling on their sword.

Unfortunately, City can hardly expect much help from Villareal. The Spanish side have no dog in this fight either. They are sure to finish dead last in the group. The Napoli match is their second of four in a 10 day stretch. Like Bayern, they can be expected to rest starters.

City's exit from the Champions League may then be a foregone conclusion. A shame, but maybe this fate tells us everything we need to know about their standing in the whole scheme of things. Drawn into a group with only one elite team, Mancini's men were simply not up to the task. So what does that say about the rest of the Premiership, a league City seemed to dominate at will? Maybe, just maybe, English teams have been passed by the competition from the continent. Man United could struggle to qualify out of one of the weakest groups in this year's draw (though unlike their crosstown rivals, Sir Alex's men still control their destiny in that manner). Chelsea are in bad shape too after today's loss. It's entirely conceivable tht Arsenal become the only English club to advance to the knockout stage of the tournament. Who could have imagined that a month or two ago?

Photo taken from London Evening Standard without permission.

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