Manchester City are back in Champions League action tonight against Borussia Dortmund, with Roberto Mancini’s men looking to open their European account for the season. However, after a disappointing group stage elimination last term and an opening day loss against Real Madrid this time round, pressure is starting to mount on the Etihad Stadium side.
Bayern Munich, Napoli and Villarreal provided the `group of death’ opponents in 2011-12, but the Premier League champions have arguably been handed an even more daunting task this time round. Real Madrid, Dortmund and Ajax stand in the way of the Citizens in their quest to reach the knockout stages, in what is certainly the pool of the highest pedigree in this season’s competition.
The 3-2 defeat to Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu was unfortunate in the fact that the English side conceded two late goals after dealing with wave after wave of Los Blancos attack for the majority of the game. Mancini and his men will be glad to have got the toughest game of the pool out of the way, and will now know that the clashes with Dortmund, both home and away, could well be the difference between qualification and elimination.
Last term Bayern ran away with the pool, and Madrid may well do the same this year. Villarreal were the whipping boys after their dramatic dip in form, and one thinks that Ajax will be the team that the other three look to get points from, both at home and in Holland. As such, Dortmund will provide a similar test to the Napoli side that ultimately cost City a place in the last 16 last term, after a draw in England and defeat in San Paolo.
Dortmund may not have started this term as impressively as they would have liked, with a seven-point gap between Jurgen Klopp’s men and Bayern at the top of the Bundesliga already after six games. However, the Signal Iduna Park side have the players to pose a real threat to City, and have a point to prove also; they have been German champions for the last two seasons, and after domestic glory making the knockout stages in Europe is the next logical progression.
A 5-0 win over Borussia Monchengladbach in their last outing showcased Dortmund’s calibre, and with the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Mario Gotze, Marco Reus and a handful of others, the visitors are capable and talented opponents for City.
City’s form on the road this term has been questioned, but at fortress Etihad they have largely continued to win matches. The draw against Napoli last season in England proved costly; City will look to get all three points tonight to set them up for potential qualification this time round.