Europe will be the proving ground for Man City’s treble ambitions

 

 

Mitch Freeley


Sunday saw Pep Guardiola claim his maiden title in England as Man City brushed aside Arsenal with a comfortable 3-0 victory. With the first title of the Guardiola era confirmed talk understandably turns to a treble including the Premier League title and Champions League and an insistence that this Manchester City could dominate domestic & European football, much like their local rivals Manchester United with Sir Alex Ferguson. 


Momentum is so crucial when you are winning trophies, and Guardiola will be glad to break his duck in England. Of course, the Spanish coach has been wildly successful at both Barcelona and Bayern Munich but will know that the value of a piece of early season silverware will be a huge boost to the whole Manchester City side heading into the business end of the season, not for his own personal trophy haul. 


It’s pretty clear that we can take the Premier League title as all but won, the Citizens have a thirteen point lead with a game in hand at the top of the table. It would take a spectacular slump in form for City to surrender top spot,  whilst home games against Chelsea & Manchester United along with a visit to Wembley to take on Spurs represent the hardest challenges left in the league campaign. 


Then it’s a question of the Champions League, and if Guardiola can guide this side all the way to the pinnacle of European football. Champions League glory has been the aim of the City management since taking over the side 2008. The closest they have come to date is a place in the semi-finals during the 2015-16 season and it's certainly one of the reasons that Pep was brought to the club at great expense in February 2017. 

So far Pep has delivered an exit at the last 16 stage as City was outgunned by an exceptional Monaco side who scored three goals at the Etihad to progress on away goals following a 6-6 aggregate scoreline.


Just a year later and City are a completely different side, gone are the ageing wing-backs and replaced with speedy upgrades in the form of Kyle Walker and Danilo. Whilst January signing Aymeric Laporte adds competition at centre back. In attack, Bernardo Silva was acquired from Monaco and Gabriel Jesus who returned from injury as a late substitute against Arsenal has developed significantly. 


A place in the last eight is assured following their 5-0 away demolition of FC Basel, but Pep Guardiola will have to refocus his side heading into the later rounds of the competition. This could potentially mean fielding younger players in Premier League games before the Champions League, meaning chances for England U17 star Phil Foden and Ukrainian prospect Oleksandr Zinchenko who have both played already this campaign. 


Guardiola himself has often fallen at the final hurdle in the Champions League in recent seasons, with three semi-final exits at the hands of Real Madrid, Barcelona & Athletico Madrid whilst at Bayern Munich. Often in these games, the Spanish coach was tactically outplayed, losing heavily to Real & former employers Barca & just on away goals to Athletico. 


Man City is more than capable of bettering the likes of Real, Barca & Bayern Munich on their day, and their all-conquering performances in the Premier League certainly backs this up. However, moving into the final stages of the Champions League Guardiola will have to carefully manage his side ensuring that the whole squad is motivated for the challenges ahead. 

 

Providing that Pep can get the balance right, and his extensive squad is fit then Manchester City will be in the frame for Champions League glory. Only then can we judge if this side is capable of dominating English & European football for the years ahead.