This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles.
18 points from 18? You certainly wouldn’t put it past them. Manchester City’s Midas-like touch with the Champions League draw continues to amaze, and this time, they really did outdo themselves.
Some big hitters like Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund were eerily waiting for Pep Guardiola’s side in pot two, but instead, out came Shakhtar Donetsk. How the Ukrainians must be sick of the sight of the Etihad side.
After that piece of luck, pots three and four didn’t bring out any potential banana skins, and it all makes it look relatively straightforward for a safe passage into the last 16 for the Manchester side.
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But perhaps City should not start celebrating too soon. They were handed favourable-looking draws in the past couple of seasons too, but have yet to see it all the way through in the Champions League. Guardiola will undoubtedly point to many factors as being the cause for their failed runs in the competition, but perhaps a lack of competition may be the underlying reason behind it. Indeed, even some City fans appear to think so too.
Another pointless group meaning when we actually face a top team in the knock stages we’ll choke as per usual.
— SR (@falsebl) 29 August 2019
Lord jesus, I’m a city fan and this group is TOO EASY…for once I wanted a good rival at this stage because we’re never ready for knockout rd…
— Regular Timeline Hank (@hanx3sports) 29 August 2019
Too easy would want a challenge tbh
— Omer (@KunMerchant) 29 August 2019
Thats one of the reasons why we got eliminated early in knockout stages. u need a tough test in groups, so as to work on your weaker areas.
— W I S H Y_ (@wishytyt97) 29 August 2019
As the saying goes in football, sometimes you learn more from a difficult defeat than a comprehensive victory. Beating the likes of Shakhtar, Dinamo Zagreb and Atalanta 5-0 may boost the egos and feeling of invincibility, but does it actually help prepare City for the business stages of the tournament, when defensive resiliency is just as important as attacking verve?
Having breezed through the group phase and knocking out Schalke 10-2 on aggregate in the last 16 last season, City came unstuck at the first real hurdle. Mauricio Pochettino’s side clinched an all-important 1-0 victory at home, before scoring three away goals at the Etihad to knock them out in the quarter-finals.
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Guardiola’s men may rue the intervention of VAR, but in the grand scheme of things, they folded against the first ‘big’ team they faced in the competition. The season before that, they waltzed on through to the last eight and then were comprehensively beaten 5-1 on aggregate by Liverpool.
Again there was a feeling amongst some that they were hard done by, but you can’t complain when you give up goals at home in two-legged ties.
So whilst the initial feeling may be one of relief that they once again avoided a potentially troublesome group, City may just be looking back in a few months time with a feeling of regret that they weren’t sufficiently tested.