Is This Manchester City’s European Season?

Man City

Manchester City are one of the richest clubs in the world, but one accolade still eludes them.

They’ve won the Premier League, lifted the FA Cup and dominated the League Cup, as well as built a legacy that should last going into the next few years. Pep Guardiola’s team are almost always there or thereabouts for domestic silverware, but European success is almost always out of their reach.

You have to return to April 29, 1970, to find their only European triumph. The Jacksons topped the UK charts with ABC, and Górnik Zabrze were beaten in the Cup Winner’s Cup. The same team was despatched in the quarter-final the following year, only for Chelsea to block City’s route to a second final in succession. 41 years later, the Blues again disappointed City, beating them in their first-ever Champions League final.

Pep’s reign, as successful as it has been, will be largely judged on his ability to deliver that all-important Champions League trophy, and it seems this season might just be the one. They’re romping away with the Premier League. And they’re red-hot favourites in the latest Ladbrokes Premier League football odds to take a fifth league title in six seasons, but that is very much the consolation prize in many fans eyes. However, their performance in their most recent Champions League game, against Sporting, has got pundits and supporters alike wondering if this might be the season.

They broke three scoring records during the 5-0 romp in Lisbon, according to the Manchester Evening News. It was the first time a team have bagged four goals before the break in a Champions League knockout stage, and the margin of victory gave them their biggest away win in the competition. Pep’s side also became the first to win five away games in the knockout stages in a row, starting with Real Madrid in 2020 and adding Paris Saint-Germain, Borussia Dortmund, and Borussia Monchengladbach last season. The win even took them beyond 200 goals in the Champions League, and whilst they’re the 14th team to reach that landmark, they did it in 97 matches, the fastest time ever.

City were unstoppable, an irresistible force that must be sending shockwaves around Europe. Sporting are second in the Portuguese top-flight; they’ve lost just twice in the league all season and have only conceded 15 goals in their 22 league matches. In the Champions League group stages, they only conceded twice and emerged from a group containing Ajax and Dortmund, with the latter side eliminated, Haaland and all. They’re certainly a decent side, but their interest in this competition is over.

What does it mean for City? Mahrez, Silva, Foden and Sterling got the goals, four players at the heart of this sensational side. The latter had a great summer with England, whilst Foden emerged as a real talent for the Three Lions. Mahrez is an established star, and Bernardo Silva has simply replaced his namesake David as a creative influence. Across the field, the team has a complete look; Cancelo, Diaz and Laporte are immovable objects, with De Bruyne a wonderful influence alongside Rodri. This could be the most rounded Manchester City side of Pep’s reign, almost certainly the best ever.

“It’s just one game,” the former Barcelona man told UEFA after the rout. “We had a fantastic result. You have to have one more game to be in the quarter-finals. The players, they know me. The way we work, we can do better. I’m incredibly happy, please understand me, but we can do better.”

It’s those final words that most of Europe will find ominous; Manchester City are on a mission, and in the form they showed in Lisbon, they’re going to achieve it finally.

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