Man City may be Champions League outsiders but terrific price to make final
Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | April 14, 2016
And so the modern era curse of no winner being able to retain the Champions League goes on, after holders Barcelona crashed out in the quarter-finals to Atletico Madrid; yet Manchester City broke new ground by taking their maiden spot in the semis.
Bayern benefit from Catalan collapse
With Barca having been strong favourites to end this hoodoo, Coral now make outgoing Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich 6/4 Champions League market leaders.
Real Madrid, the 10-time champions of Europe, come next at 13/5 equipped with the galactic talent of Cristiano Ronaldo. He’s scored just the 16 Champions League goals this season.
Spanish capital rivals Atleti are a tasty 10/3 to go one better than 2014, and that leaves Man City bringing up the rear as 11/2 outright outsiders.
Personal for Pellegrini?
Manuel Pellegrini – another outgoing manager who coincidentally is being replaced by long-time desired Etihad coaching candidate Guardiola this summer – lost his only other Champions League semi-final.
That was with Villarreal and the Juan Roman Riquelme vintage of 2005/06 and the Yellow Submarine were sunk by Arsenal, but the Chilean boss has far greater resources and strength in depth at his disposal now.
An open Champions League semi-final draw leaves no easy games anyway. Fate may well pair Pellegrini with his successor, and what would another loss say about Man City manager-elect Guardiola?
This charming man
Dignified Pellegrini already has a European win over the man who he is keeping the chief seat in the Etihad dugout warm for, and more recently than you think. Bayern were already through to the knockout phase last season when they came to Manchester in November 2014 and lost 3-2.
Initially leading and then seemingly about to lose a topsy-turvy game to Guardiola’s men from Munich, Sergio Aguero stepped up and hit a hat-trick with two late strikes supplementing his opening penalty. Pellegrini also beat his City successor in another meaningless group game back in December 2013 at the Allianz Arena.
Sympathisers of Pellegrini point to how shabbily he has been treated by the Etihad outfit, but his looming departure is not the first time he has been ushered out of an elite European club because an en vogue coach awaits to take over.
During his single season as Real manager (2009/10), Pellegrini won a staggering 75 per cent of his 48 games in charge across all competitions. Los Blancos lost out on La Liga’s crown to bitter El Clasico rivals Barcelona by just three points on the final day.
Jose Mourinho, meanwhile, was steering Inter Milan to a historic treble and that was enough for Madrid’s massively ambitious board to change tack and sack Pellegrini in favour of ‘the Special One’.
If anyone has more incentive to eliminate Real from Europe than Pellegrini, it will be their cross-capital rivals Atletico. While no animosity or subplots exist between Man City and the Vicente Calderon club, a fiery character coaching the latter could certainly cause a stir.
Diego Simeone – the aggressive Argentine who seems no more mild-mannered in management than he was as a heels-snapping, tough-tackling defensive midfielder – contrasts sharply with Pellegrini.
On one side of the technical area, a respectful, charming Chilean, but on the other a brash, passionate Latin temper that appears to have the Eternal Torch fuelling his undampenable ardour.
The upshot of all these personalities – let’s not forget Real caretaker Zinedine Zidane, scorer of perhaps the Champions League’s best-ever goal at Hampden Park, and how his playing career came to a combustible end – is in many ways irrelevant.
City must relish underdog tag
Whoever Pellegrini must pit his tactical wits against, Man City will start as outsiders. All of Atletico, Bayern and Real are more familiar with this stage than the first-timers.
Scalping runaway French champions PSG is a sign of significant progress, yet Los Blancos and Munich are serial semi-finalists.
Atleti, meanwhile, have amazingly kept the bulk of their squad that went one stage further in 2014 together. In France forward Antoine Griezmann, they have an attacker blessed with far greater mobility than predecessor Diego Costa could give.
Draw will throw up difficulties regardless
Bayern possess a potent and rich roster of attackers, with threats as varied as ageing duo Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery to the established prime talents of Germany menace Thomas Muller and Poland poacher Robert Lewandowski.
Guardiola also has some fresh threats for his future employers here, however, in Brazil winger Douglas Costa and France counterpart Kingsley Coman.
When we know who will face who, the odds shall shift, but Man City’s current price of 13/8 to make the Champions League final is terrific and certainly exploitable by punters.
Doubt they can make Milan’s San Siro come the end of May? The bookies, Coral included, all didn’t fancy City to get past PSG, yet Pellegrini found a way and did so at the Etihad despite Aguero pulling a penalty well wide.
Check out more Champions League content on Coral’s dedicated page.