Can Man City justify status as favs for Champions League glory?
Manchester City breezed past FC Basel in Switzerland in the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie, with a 4-0 scoreline.
With a quarter-final place virtually guaranteed, the Citizens are now 3/1 favourites to lift the trophy. And ahead of the second leg at the Etihad tonight, the Coral News Team look at whether Pep Guardiola’s men have their name on the trophy…
They can focus on Europe
While other potential quarter-final opponents like Juventus and Real Madrid are embroiled in domestic title tussles or battling for position, City are virtually certain of lifting the Premier League title. They’re now 16 points clear at the top with just nine games left.
With the Carabao Cup already won and the FA Cup no longer on the agenda, Guardiola and co. can put all their eggs in the Champions League basket.
They won’t be the only English representatives in the quarter-finals, either. Liverpool are already through, while Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur all have reasonable chances of qualification after first-leg draws.
That bodes well for a Sky Blues side who’ve dominated clashes against their Premier League rivals this term. As well as beating Chelsea home and away, and winning at Old Trafford, they’ve thumped Spurs (4-1) and Liverpool (5-0). It’s hard to see any English side causing them many problems over two legs.
Impressive UCL displays…but no huge tests
It’s been so far, so good for City in the Champions League. They won their first five games of a fairly straightforward group, scoring 13 goals in the process – including four away at Napoli.
The only blot on their copybook was a defeat in the dead rubber at Shakhtar Donetsk on matchday six. As for the 4-0 triumph at Basel, the context makes that even more impressive.
It’s the Swiss club’s heaviest defeat since a certain Mr. Guardiola led his Barcelona side to a 5-0 UCL victory at St Jakob Park in October 2008. As for Barca, they went on to win the Champions League that season.
While that’s all impressive, the Citizens are yet to face a side of the calibre of Barcelona, Real or Bayern Munich in the competition.
Los Blancos’ 5-2 aggregate defeat of Paris-Saint Germain and Bayern’s 5-0 first-leg thumping of Besiktas suggest both remain strong contenders this term.
Pep knows what’s needed
It takes a certain calibre of manager to deal with the preparation and pressure of a Champions League final. And Pep has proved he’s one of a small band of managers who can do just that.
He won the trophy twice in two years as Barca boss, first in 2009 and then 2011. Both times he was up against a two-time UCL winner in Man United boss Sir Alex Ferguson. But each time Barca outpassed, outclassed and out-thought the Premier League giants.
The current Citizens boss also knows what it takes on the pitch. As a fresh-faced 21-year-old, he played a vital role in Barca’s first ever European Cup triumph, as they defeated Sampdoria at Wembley.
Combined with the quality in the ranks at the Etihad, his experience could be the magic ingredient needed to lift the trophy.
As for tonight’s game, the Citizens are 1/5 to win the second leg and go through in style. A draw on the night is an 11/2 shot, with Basel 16/1 for victory.
The hosts have Bernardo Silva in fine form. The Portugal international netted in the away leg, and has also registered in Man City’s last two games – against Arsenal and Chelsea respectively.
He’s 6/5 to Score Anytime and 4/1 to break the deadlock for the third game on the spin.
At the other end, another clean sheet looks likely. City’s last four wins have come without conceding. Pep’s charges are 5/6 to Win to Nil again.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing