Could the Citizens finally go all the way and win the UCL? Here we explore why we think this year could be the year we go all the way.
City is in a really good position at the moment with the core members of the team largely enjoying good fitness while the football they have been playing has been superb for a majority of the time. There has been the odd dodgy performance but that can happen when any team rotates or has an off day. Here we’ll be looking at some key points which could help indicate as to whether City is in a good enough position to finally win the Champions League.
Matchday preview predictions are always tough to nail down but given how good this City side has been this season, it's a pretty safe bet to assume that they will come away with all three points. Despite there being a lack of a real striker, everybody seems to be pulling in the same direction which is exactly what you need if you are to go all the way and win.
No striker? No problem
The loss of Sergio Aguero, and the decision not to replace him, was concerning for many City fans. Gabriel Jesus never quite progressed from a rotation and ‘super-sub’ option, and the youngsters in the academy did not look quite ready to step in and impose themselves in the team. Despite this, we’ve been absolutely fine with a number of players filling in.
Ferran Torres was Pep Guardiola’s go-to striker in the 433 system, while Phil Foden has also been an invaluable option through the middle. The departure of the young Spaniard will no doubt be a spanner in the works but the tidy profit they will make from his transfer will no doubt be smartly reinvested and we could see a shiny new forward arrive in January.
No major injuries to deal with
Unlike some of their domestic rivals, City seem to be doing okay with regard to injuries and isolation absentees. Yes, they might have a few players out at the moment, but there are adequate players waiting in the wings to fill those spots while they also have an excellent crop of youngsters hungry and eager for the opportunity to prove themselves at the highest level.
The loss of John Stones is unfortunate but in Ruben Dias and Aymeric Laporte, City has arguably the best defensive duo in the Premier League, and maybe in the Champions League too! Rodri, who we’ll touch upon later, is a loss also, but Fernandinho is an adequate stand-in given his expertise in that position, and that's without mentioning the prolific Ilkay Gundogan.
The form of Joao Cancelo, and the brilliant central defenders that they have at their disposal, helps to lessen the impact of Kyle Walker being absent at the moment too. These injuries though, which are hopefully short term, should clear up soon enough and leave them with a squad that is able to compete with Europe’s very best and get them that little bit closer to glory.
The midfield is doing their bit
As we saw last season, City’s midfield has been a revelation despite undergoing significant changes in the past 18 months, with club legend Fernandinho slowly being phased out as well as the departure of talisman David Silva. While there is still work to be done in order to find the perfect balance, the team has excellent options that can all do their bit.
It might have taken him some time to stamp his authority onto the team, and he ain’t no Fernandinho, but Rodri has slowly but surely made that midfield spot his own and is very quickly becoming a general on the pitch. It hasn't always been plain sailing, with there being question marks over his quality at times, but there isn't any doubt about his importance now.
The minefield is also a potent offensive asset, with Bernardo Silva being a man reborn this season, just months on from him almost being a certain departure. While question marks remain, recent interview snippets do seem to allude to the fact that there may be a future for the Portuguese star in this team. His form this season, which has seen him score 7 in 18 Premier League appearances, highlights this importance but he will need to replicate that form in Europe if we are to stand a chance of finally listing that, until now, elusive trophy.
Joao Cancelo has been a revelation
This season’s standout star has been the Portuguese right-back with Cancelo showing his critics exactly why Pep Guardiola was so desperate to bring him in from Juventus. Arriving back in 2019 in a move which saw the Citizens part with around £30m and bit-part player Danilo, the Portuguese has become a sort of ‘false full-back’, capable of creating from deep.
While the defender has been outstanding in the Premier League, pitching in with 1 goal and 4 assists in 18 appearances, it is in the Champions League where he has been at his very best, registering 2 goals and 3 assists in just 5 appearances. This form, coupled with strong options at the heart of the defence, provides a great platform for the team to build from.
Despite his amazing form this season, Joao Cancelo actually endured quite a rocky start to life in Manchester, at times struggling to nail down a starting position. In the 2 seasons prior to 21/22, he only registered a combined 10 goal contribution, a tally he has already matched this season. This is the kind of form that could propel City to European success.