Monday’s Champions League draw saw a different English side take the bullet and face Barcelona. It was Arsenal, whose 3-0 away win against Olympiacos gave them a late reprieve in the competition, that was drawn against Manchester City’s usual Round of 16 opponents.
The Citizens’ reward for topping the group is a tie to Dynamo Kiev. Certainly an easier prospect but not without its downsides.
Avoiding PSG was the target for all those who won their groups. It’s Chelsea that will have to face them and hope they can reverse last season’s elimination at the hands of the rich Parisians. Most City fans had braced themselves for the trip across to the French capital so it was light relief when they swerved a meeting.
Such is the ill-feeling toward UEFA, and the paranoia that bad luck will always follow City in the Champions League, that the dream of drawing Gent was never going to be realised. Instead they got a game with a readymade subplot. Just like when the Manchester side faced CSKA Moscow, they will be unable to take any travelling support.
Good draw in terms of our chances of progressing, but gutted we can't travel. City fans being punished for other clubs' racism once again.
— Ric Turner (@bluemoon_mcfc) December 14, 2015
For a second time now, City have been punished because of the actions of rival fans. It was Kiev fans that were found guilty of racist chants. A more fitting punishment would be to ban them from the 70,000 NSC Olimpiyskiy stadium and allow City to take as many of their supporters as they please.
Instead UEFA have given them a ban that will only act as a small financial punishment and on match day will be a leveller of the atmosphere which could assist the home team as they will be familiar with the environment.
Crowds aside, by February the current Manchester City side needs to have settled. Against Swansea they once again produced a display befitting of the new Typical City definition. Even in the lead there’s a feeling the team can switch off and concede goals. When the inevitable occurs the belief that follows is that City will rescue the day. More often than not, they do.
But they’ve found out before that escape acts are harder to pull off in the Champions League. If they need an example, then they should give CSKA Moscow a few further minutes’ worth of thought. Like Swansea at the weekend, Kiev is a winnable tie. But like the Swans match, the feeling persists that City can make hard work of it.
The cold away leg has the potential to be a banana skin. However, there is enough time before then to bring key players back from injury and rediscover the form from the opening five games of the season. If the side starts keeping clean sheets again (something they have failed to do with Vincent Kompany out of the side) and becomes more clinical in front of goal so they can put games to bed earlier, a trip to Kiev will look far more appealing.
Arsenal have our usual Round of 16 luck, drawing Barcelona.
— City Watch (@City_Watch) December 14, 2015
To place it into context, for fans and players alike, the daunting prospect facing Arsenal is one City had become used to. Facing Barcelona requires a degree of faith when considering progression because logic says it will be unlikely. Teams like Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Barcelona are currently playing at a higher level than their English counterparts. The Gunners have become the sacrificial lamb often played by the Blues.
If City do progress – as they will be expecting – they will have to face a top team at some point. But perhaps this squad only needs a run in Europe to instil the belief they’re currently missing. They’ll be hoping to give their fans a big European away day after dealing with the Ukraine threat.
And who knows? Arsenal could even cause an upset and remove Barcelona from the list of potential quarter final opponents.