UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
Bayern Munich out to shatter Man City’s European dream
Manchester City has vacuumed up every domestic trophy on offer in recent seasons. Despite this domestic dominance — the Uefa Champions League crown remains elusive.
Will Manchester City follow Paris Saint-Germain out of European contention after the French club failed for another season to conquer Europe? In spite of having wealthy Qatari owners.
Since being taken over by Emirati deputy prime minister Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan over a decade ago — City have (similarly to PSG) been in desperate pursuit of being crowned champions. To no avail.
The next obstacle for the Citizens in this endeavour is a two-game quarterfinal duel against German giants Bayern Munich — on Tuesday night.
Ironically, the six-time European champions are the ones that put paid to Paris’ pursuit — defeating Kylian Mbappé and company 3-0 on aggregate in the round of 16 last month.
Manager of the Bavarians Thomas Tuchel — in what may very well be a dose of psychological warfare — suggested that his side will enter into the two-legged battle with the odds against them.
“We will have the role of the underdog and that is okay. We have to stay confident and stay on top of our game,” Tuchel told journalists ahead of the clash.
Quizzed on how Bayern would deal with a City side that loves to hog possession of the ball, Tuchel said: “Pep [Guardiola’s] teams always have his own unique style. We will try to find ways of competing both with and without the ball.”
Despite domestic dominance in recent seasons, the Citizens have failed to replicate their form in the Champions League.
Under Guardiola, the team has won four Premier League titles, one FA Cup and four League Cups. Success on the continent has proven more elusive. Despite the Spanish manager possessing the know-how of winning in Europe following his two European triumphs with Barcelona, so far, the English club’s best finish came when they claimed the silver medal in 2021.
When asked how much he wanted to win the Champions League title with City, Guardiola said he and his charges were desperate for the history-making accolade.
“We want to try. It is an honour to be here against an elite club such as Bayern Munich. We will not take it for granted. We have to play two [good] games,” said the former Munich manager.
“The question has been coming every single season. We try every single season. Teams you face are also good and want to win too. My dream is to lift it again. We want to try. But that doesn’t mean we are going to win,” Guardiola continued. “Michael Jordan won six NBA titles, how many years did he play? 16.”
Defender Ruben Dias echoed his manager’s sentiments, saying the tournament was “special” for City.
“We really want to be in it and to see it through. It will be a difficult match, but it is what the competition is all about, beating the best,” the Portuguese defender told journalists.
In another interesting Champions League clash the two most recent European conquerors, Real Madrid and Chelsea, will joust for an advantage in the first leg.
Chelsea — having one of their worst domestic seasons in recent years and sitting in the bottom half of the Premier League — will look to remain in Europe for as long as they can.
However, record Champions League winners Real Madrid will aim to stamp their authority at their intimidating home base — the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium.
These two teams also met at the same stage last season, Karim Benzema scoring four goals across the tie in a 5-4 aggregate triumph for the eventual champions.
Frank Lampard — who won his only Champions League gold medal as a Chelsea player in 2012 — was appointed as the London club’s interim manager after fellow Englishman Graham Potter was shown the door a week ago.
The 44-year-old says the team’s target is to salvage a tough season and to win as many of their remaining games as possible. Including these clashes against Real Madrid.
“My mission? To install the highest level of confidence I can with the group. In terms of targets, we want to win as many games as we can. It’s the simplest answer you’re going to get. Every game is hard, but we have to have a belief in the players in this squad. We want to win games,” said Lampard.
It will be a tough hurdle to scale. Madrid just seem to innately know how to win the Champions League. As evidenced by their record 14 titles to date. DM
Champions League quarterfinal first legs
Tuesday, 11 April:
Manchester City vs Bayern Munich (9pm)
Benfica vs Inter Milan (9pm)
Wednesday, 12 April:
Real Madrid vs Chelsea (9pm)
AC Milan vs Napoli (9pm)