Manchester City all but booked their place in the group stages of this season’s UEFA Champions League with a 5-0 thrashing of Steaua Bucharest in the first leg of their qualifying tie on Tuesday night.
This came three days after a less-than-perfect display in beating Sunderland 2-1 in which Paddy McNair scored a late own goal to get the Pep Guardiola regime underway at the Etihad.
Sergio Agüero was in fine form midweek aside from his penalty taking as the Argentine is already clear favourite to win the Premier League Golden Boot this season. That usually depends on his fitness, something that has not been reliable during his time in England. If Guardiola can keep getting the best out of the striker they will be a real threat both domestically and in Europe.
City have a bigger test this weekend when they go to Stoke City, though it must be said the Potters themselves weren’t too impressive in drawing 1-1 at Middlesbrough on Saturday. They relied on an excellent free kick from Xherdan Shaqiri to rescue a point versus the Premier League newcomers.
The Citizens are the favourites but it is a game you may want to consider taking in-play to ensure Manchester City look sure of winning. You can place live in-play football bets at William Hill if interested.
There’s certainly the making of an exciting spell for Manchester City fans with the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich head coach at the helm. Early evidence suggests the players are still learning Guardiola’s intense tactics.
City’s attacking players, capable of winning any game with the likes of Agüero, Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva, will have a lot of freedom in the final third under the new boss. This spells danger for their opponents.
Whether they have the team to go all the way in Europe remains to be seen. Guardiola’s record in the Champions League is phenomenal – reaching the semi-finals in all seven seasons he has been in Europe’s elite club competition.
However, the Premier League were looking in awe of Real Madrid, Atlético Madrid, Bayern Munich and Barcelona in the Champions League last season. With some excellent managerial appointments and the cash windfall that has rained down on the English top flight, this gap could certainly close this season. City potentially leading the charge.
However, the top teams in Spain and Germany’s finest still appear stronger on paper. Manchester City potentially have weaknesses in goal, at full-back, centre midfield and on the wing unless Guardiola can develop the likes of Raheem Sterling and bring in at least one more defender this summer.
Leroy Sané and ?lkay Gündo?an could solve some of those issues once fit but the Spanish coach has arguably not built a strong defence during his two previous jobs. Granted, his teams do dominate possession and territory, but in games where they don’t, notably Champions League semi-finals, the defending has been his side’s undoing.
Pep Guardiola hasn’t inherited a strong defence and based on John Stones’ performances with Everton last season and his City debut against Sunderland, the young Englishman has a long way to go if he is going to be a suitable partner for Vincent Kompany. The Belgian international himself currently out through injury.
How far Manchester City go in the Champions League may depend on how well his players adapt to his system during his first year in charge and the fitness of his key players.