PREVIEW: Manchester City’s Champions League Group Stage

After what was a pretty easy qualifying task against Steaua Bucharest – winning 6-0 on aggregate across two legs – Manchester City are back in the Group Stages of European football’s elite competition.

As always, City fans were waiting to be drawn against CSKA Moscow and Bayern Munich for what had become regular European trips over recent years, but this will not be the case for the 2016/17 competition.

Instead, the Blues were drawn to face Celtic, Barcelona and Borussia Mönchengladbach in Group C of the competition and for once City fans are excited about the Champions League.

Barcelona's Spanish coach Josep Guardiol

Only the footballing gods would ensure Pep Guardiola faces his old club Barcelona, but, unlike in previous meetings, City have a chance of beating the Catalan side this time around.

Celtic are a team which have become a regular in the Champions League, but European nights seem to be an occasion where the Scottish champions excel, particularly at home, and City need to be aware of that.

Borussia Mönchengladbach clashed with City in the group stage in last season’s competition and both matches were tight affairs, with a 2-1 win in Germany and a 4-2 win at the Etihad where the German side were seen as the better team in both matches.

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Barcelona

Manchester City have clashed with Barcelona before in the Champions League Round of 16 under Manuel Pellegrini in 2013/14 and 2014/15.

Unfortunately, in both instances, City were outplayed by a better team and did not step up when it mattered.

FC Barcelona v Manchester City - UEFA Champions League Round of 16

Now with Guardiola at the helm, there is optimism as both Barcelona and Manchester City play similar styles of football which could produce an exciting clash.

City will for once be direct and put pressure on Barcelona which will be the only way to beat the La Liga champions. However, something which has been evident in the last few matches for City is that the first 45 minutes are a joy to watch, but, as City enter the second half their fitness levels drop and the opposition are able to cause a lot of problems. The drop in fitness levels cannot happen against Barcelona because if it does, MSN (Messi, Suarez and Neymar) will take their chances and City could be outclassed and humiliated.

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Borussia Mönchengladbach

City last came up against the German side during last season’s Group Stage and both fixtures turned out to be exciting encounters.

However, last season’s City side were not always a joy to watch and made both matches a difficult task for themselves, even though both wins were a crucial part in coming top of the group.

FBL-EUR-C1-MAN CITY-MOENCHENGLADBACH

With the Blues now under the watchful eye of Pep Guardiola, they will be clear favourites and should blow the side which finished fourth in the Bundesliga last season out of the water with the high intensity and possession style of play.

Celtic

Along with the Barcelona matches, City’s clashes with Celtic will be intense affairs.

Even though the Scottish Premiership is not the strongest of football competitions, Celtic always step it up when it comes to the Champions League. Most notably Celtic’s win over Barcelona back in 2012/13 season.

Celtic v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League

The atmosphere for both matches will be intense with Celtic fans always known for making noise, especially at Celtic Park, an arena built for huge European football matches.

It is not likely that City and Guardiola will be affected by the atmosphere as they will continue the way they have been playing for the opening matches of the Premier League season.

Instead, City will need to break down what will probably a “park the bus” tactic from the Scottish champions and hopefully not get kicked out the game as it is likely that Celtic will attempt to injure as many City players as possible.

The matches against Celtic should be an easy task for City, but, they will need to be patient and take their chances if they are looking to get two victories against the Scottish side.

Celtic v Rangers - Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership

City should have a relatively easy time in their Champions League group with Barcelona being the likely team to compete against for top spot in the group and if Guardiola’s side play exactly the same way they have been doing for the opening weeks of this season, there will be some memorable European nights to come for Manchester City.

Written by Matt Astbury

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2 comments on “PREVIEW: Manchester City’s Champions League Group Stage
  1. I actually think this group will be quite tough. I think City will stomp Celtic in both legs, but I think they’ll struggle to take any points from the Barca games. I’d still expect them to go through to the knockouts, but they’ll really need to play well against Gladbach, who are not a weak team in any way.

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