Man City’s quest to become Champions League elites

“If you want something you never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done”. Thomas Jefferson must have thought long and hard before he came to that conclusion. He must have thought that if you’re a club like Manchester City and you’re trying to win the one trophy that has eluded you in your entire history, then you must be ready to do things you’ve never done. You know, things like defeat Real Madrid over two legs of a Champions League knockout game or progress beyond the semi-finals of the tournament itself. Jokes aside though, if Pep Guardiola’s men are going to have any chance of lifting the Champions League this season, tonight is the a perfect night to show the rest of Europe that they are a force to reckon with.

Since Manchester City owners took charge of the club over a decade ago, they have conquered all that came their way locally. Following their initial struggles to win the Premier League, they finally achieved their goal in the most dramatic fashion in 2012, three other league titles, one FA cup, two community shields, and five League Cups since then have gone far to confirm the club as a dominant force in England.

It’s been an entirely different case in the Champions League, however, Manchester City has been unable to exert itself on the rest of Europe as it has done in England. A couple of group stage exits, three defeats in the second round including the shocking exit at the hands of Monaco in the 2016/17 season and two quarter-final knockouts at the hand of Premier League rivals, Liverpool and Tottenham in successive years fuels the belief that Manchester club are merely pretenders as far as Europe’s top competition is concerned.

They did make the Semi-finals in the 2015/16 season under the guidance of former coach, Manuel Pellegrini where they lost to tonight’s opponents, Real Madrid, but their desire to take that further step in the competition pushed them to hire two-time Champion League-winning coach, Pep Guardiola in the hope that he would take them to the proverbial “promised land”.

Pep Guardiola also has his own demons, the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach hasn’t tasted success in the competition since he last won it with Barcelona in 2011 and his best outing with Manchester City in the quarter-finals on two separate occasions. Some argue that he should have done better, Afterall, he lost both matches against Premier League opponents – Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur – teams that were supposedly part of the local league that he and his City team dominated for successive years.

But the UEFA Champions League is a totally different ball game, you can have all the best players in your team, have the best club management structure, the best training staff, all the money in the world but still not have what it takes to win the “big ears” trophy. There’s the character that comes with having a huge history in the competition, the desire that stays within clubs that know that they cannot afford to fail in the competition, and of course, there’s luck.

City certainly know that they don’t have history on their side but they’ll be needing all the luck they can get tonight. Half of the job is done however, a 2-1 win away at the Bernabeu puts them in a good position for tonight’s second leg encounter but with teams like Real Madrid, you can’t entirely write the match off. It will be interesting to see how both teams approach the game, Real Madrid certainly need to attack if they are to have any chance of overturning the result while Man City must show a lot of maturity, something that they’ve failed to display in the last couple of seasons in Europe.

If Pep Guardiola’s men want to be a force to reckon with, tonight is a perfect opportunity to stand up and be counted. Will they rise to the occasion or fall again under pressure?

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