Manchester City have a European tie on Tuesday night that may allow them to achieve what would be a “first” for them.

If they beat Borussia Moenchengladbach and Juventus fail to beat Sevilla, then City will qualify for the next round as group winners. This will be the first time they have achieved that in their Champions League history, following a failure to qualify and two second placed qualifications.

The more likely scenario is that Juventus will beat Sevilla, THEY will qualify as group winners and City will finish second again. All of which means that, in the first knockout round, City could face Real Madrid, Barcelona or Bayern Munich. They could be lucky and get a team which won one of the lesser groups but that would still potentially put them up against the likes of Zenit St. Petersburg, Porto or Atletico Madrid.

At the moment it is all rather immaterial as City can’t even take a point from a team like Stoke City so, even if they were to qualify as group winners, it is unlikely that they would then progress.

City’s problem appears to be that, no matter how much money they spend and no matter how big the squad is, as soon as Vincent Kompany is injured they struggle to get results. Just to compound that, against Stoke they were also missing Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero, which didn’t help matters.

Also called into question occasionally has been the tactical awareness of Manuel Pellegrini. Again in the match at Stoke City, when Manchester City were 2-0 down he took off Fernandinho, who had been playing well and left on Fernando, who hadn’t. This decision then backfired dramatically when Fernando had to leave the pitch anyway, due to injury, and City were left with ten men.

He replaced Wilfried Bony with Kelechi Iheanacho and at least the ball stopped bouncing off the striker and going to the opponents. He also replaced David Silva with Jesus Navas. This was to give Silva a bit of a rest after his lengthy injury, but it certainly wasn’t like for like and Navas did nothing noteworthy for all the time he was on the field.

Following the substitutions, which had all been made before the sixty fifth minute, City went 4-4-2 with Iheanacho and Sterling playing as strikers. It didn’t make any difference. By this time Stoke had the game well under control and City, to be honest, never looked like scoring.

Pellegrini has been known to employ strange tactics in the Champion’s League where, again, he will go 4-4-2 and sacrifice a midfielder in games where City are then overrun in midfield and lose. He has taken Aguero off in a game against Bayern Munich when one more goal would have seen City finish top of the group and avoid Barcelona, who beat them in the next round. What was annoying about this switch was that City were well on top in this game against Bayern and looked very likely to score another goal, which they may well have done had Aguero been left on the pitch.

So City will be hoping for a few things to go their way on Tuesday night at the Etihad. Firstly, they will hope that they can win this game irrespective of whether or not Vincent Kompany plays.It doesn’t look as though he will, but Yaya Toure is fit at least. Secondly, they will hope that Manuel Pellegrini gets his tactics right. Thirdly, they will be hoping that, if they can win, Sevilla will do them a favour by beating Juventus, as this is the only permutation that will see City win the group.

Knowing City as I do and knowing how unpredictable they can be they will probably lose the game and go through in second, meaning that all the articles and conjecture on what might and might not happen have been a complete waste of time.


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