Pep Guardiola is well-versed in winning the Champions League. The Spaniard completed that feat twice during his time as Barcelona boss, but the prize was just out of reach during his successful reign at Bayern Munich, during which he guided the German giants to the semi-finals for three years in succession.
Now Guardiola has been hot on the heels of the prized trophy as Man City boss and since his arrival in the summer of 2016, and they fell at the final hurdle in May as Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea took the spoils from a closely fought 1-0 win in Porto.
There is every sign that this season could finally be the one where Man City clinch the Champions League success they covet, and that’s as much down to the continued growth of Guardiola’s expansive squad as it is due to the lack of genuine contenders for the crown.
Indeed, most bookmakers have Manchester City as the favourites to win it, and that alone is a good enough reason to make use of the latest free bet offers from Sky Bet to place a wager on the Etihad Stadium side.
Expansive Squad That Is Fine-Tuned for Champions League Action
Of course, Pep Guardiola has always had an excellent squad to call upon during his time in charge of Man City; that’s the bonus of having owners with near bottomless wallets, but it’s not just about having a host of world-class talents; it’s about moulding them to fit positions and tactics.
Right now, Guardiola’s side is fine-tuned for all competitions but for Champions League action; they are like a gently purring Ferrari waiting to burst into life at every opportunity.
In a group that includes PSG and RB Leipzig, City have blasted to the top spot and have been at their free-scoring best. They could have faltered after their defeat at the Parc des Princes in late September, but they instead thrashed Club Brugge 5-1 away and 4-1 at home before coming back from behind to defeat the French giants on their own patch.
Guardiola has the ability to bring players to the fore just when he needs them. For example, there had been plenty of speculation over the future of Raheem Sterling at City, and he had been in and out of action but then netted against PSG and Club Brugge, just when the club needed him.
Similarly, while Riyad Mahrez has struggled to make an impact in Premier League action, whose only goals in the top tier have come as mere icing on the cake of big wins against Brighton and Norwich City, the Algerian has been outstanding on European duty.
Guardiola has the capability, and nous, to rotate his squad in a way that doesn’t negatively affect his players or title aspirations.
Effectively managing a squad that includes 20 current internationals is no easy feat; with that much quality, it can be hard to appease everyone, but Guardiola has managed to do so in recent seasons, and it’s paid off, leading to the capturing of numerous titles, all except the one they really want.
Lack of Genuine Champions League Winning Contenders
Usually, the list of teams who could theoretically be considered capable of winning the Champions League would number a half dozen plus, but that’s no longer really the case.
For instance, the likes of Barcelona have suffered in recent seasons, and it would take a monumental effort for Xavi to lead the Nou Camp side anywhere near the title (indeed, they may struggle even to make the next stage).
Similarly, the likes of Juventus, finalists twice in the past seven seasons, have fallen way off the pace. Borussia Dortmund are out of the tournament, and while Real Madrid are riding high in La Liga, this is again due to the lack of competition at present.
So realistically, along with Manchester City, the other teams who seem likely contenders include Liverpool, Chelsea, and Bayern Munich. After those four, the pot gets weaker and weaker.
This lack of in-form opposition should mean City can move effortlessly towards the business end of the tournament, and then it’s all about not choking, something that Guardiola’s side have gotten better at avoiding in recent seasons.
Focused On The Missing Piece of the Jigsaw
Having won the Premier League three times out of the last four seasons, Guardiola has his focus fully aimed at Champions League, and maybe, when the season progresses, his team selection will reflect this.
In other words, if there is a big knockout encounter following a Premier League clash, Pep may now push to save his big guns for the midweek clash, such is his desire to finally secure the prized asset that’s missing from the Man City trophy cabinet.
For Guardiola, all roads now lead to Saint Petersburg, where the next Champions League final will be held, and we’d confidently predict that this season will see Manchester City finally lift the prestigious trophy once and for all.