Following their first two games, Manchester City are currently sitting second in their group with three points from a possible six. After being drawn in a group with Lyon, Shakhtar Donetsk and 1899 Hoffenheim, many people expected City to progress through to the next round with relative ease despite the opposition having the ability to cause City some issues.
However, all thoughts of an easy group stage were shut down in the first game as Lyon overcame the English champions 2-1. Like the majority of Manchester City’s games under Pep Guardiola, the champions dominated the match stats across the board. Despite their ‘superiority’ over the French side, City were unable to take advantage of the chances from their possession of the ball as Lyon pulled off a shock win at the Etihad Stadium.
The defeat also meant that City became the first English side in Champions League history to lose four consecutive matches (including last season’s matches against Basel and Liverpool, who are favourites from the competition according to the Liverpool odds to win Champions League).
After their poor start to their Champions League campaign, City bounced back against Hoffenheim. Despite finding themselves 1-0 down in the first minute of the game, Guardiola’s men bounced back and secured a 2-1 win thanks to an 87th minute goal from David Silva.
Although City experienced a mixed start to their campaign, they still find themselves in a very strong position to qualify for the next round. But can they win the group?
In the past few seasons, teams that qualify for the next round of the competition achieve around 10 points, with the table toppers getting around 12 to 15 points. It’s very rare that teams manage to win every single one of their group games. There have been some groups in the past where 10 points isn’t enough to make it to the next round, but this is very rare.
As things stand, City are well on course to reach the “magic” points total to reach the next round, with more 12 points still up for grabs. If City manage to achieve maximum points, they will guarantee themselves a spot in the next round and a place at the top of the group. Considering Man City’s form in the competition, it is very likely that they’ll achieve this.
Apart from their three consecutive home defeats, City have usually looked very good at home in the competition. Before their defeat to Basel in the round of 16, City were unbeaten at home in the competition with Guardiola, only dropping points against Celtic. Their away form hasn’t been the greatest, with more defeats than victories, but you would still expect City to get enough points to progress.
Their form in the competition suggests that they’ll progress into the next round, but you also have to take into consideration the fixtures that surround their Champions League games. We’re approaching that time of the Premier League season where the fixtures are coming thick and fast as well as the final few group games. Unfortunately for City, their upcoming fixtures are against some of the toughest opposition.
Their next Champions League fixture against Shakhtar is just days before a top of the table clash against Tottenham Hotspur. The fact that City will have a six day rest will be beneficial, but the five hour flight could lead to fatigue from some players.
They’ll face a similar issue just a few weeks later when they place against Shakhtar again, this time at home, just four days before their derby match against arch-rivals Manchester United. The fact that City are at home and United are away will give the Citizens some sort of advantage, but once again Guardiola will have to decide which match to prioritise.
Their final group game could also prove tricky for the team, especially if qualification isn’t secured. The game against Hoffenheim is right in the middle of vital games against Chelsea and Everton. If qualification is still up for grabs at this point, rotation will be necessary.
City certainly have the depth to compete in multiple competitions, but Guardiola will have to decide in the upcoming weeks which competition he’ll want to prioritise with all of the high-profile fixtures coming up.
In the end you’d expect Manchester City to secure their place in the round of 16, but whether they’ll top the group is unclear. Since their debut appearance in the 2011-12 season, City have qualified for the second round five out of seven times, finishing top of the group twice.
Going off their results in the previous season it seems like qualification is virtually guaranteed, but with only three points separating first and fourth, City will have to fight to secure their place in the next round.