Manchester City are under more pressure than ever before to win the Champions League having surrendered their Premier League crown to Liverpool.
Pep Guardiola’s men were outstanding for the past two seasons in the English top flight, winning the title with a level of excellence not seen in the Premier League era.
However, the Spaniard has watched his side fail three times on the bounce in Europe and he will be feeling the heat more than most to deliver the Champions League crown.
It is one of the few criticisms that have been levied against Guardiola. Since his departure from Barcelona, he has not been able to win the ultimate prize in Europe during his time with Bayern Munich, and his four years at the Etihad Stadium.
Given Liverpool’s exploits by triumphing in Europe after failing to win the Premier League title, City will be expected to match them.
Because of this, they are the leading contenders in the football betting odds on the Champions League to lift the trophy in May at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul. It will be a massive challenge due to the quality of the teams left in the competition and the inconsistent form the Citizens have displayed throughout the current campaign.
At the peak of their powers, City are capable of blowing away any team in the Champions League, including Liverpool. For the past two seasons, Guardiola has watched his side crumble under the pressure, losing to Liverpool and Tottenham in the quarter-finals.
Their defeat to Spurs was perhaps a tad unfortunate, with VAR intervening against them on more than one occasion. The loss to the Reds in 2018 was simply being outplayed in both legs.
Raheem Sterling’s recent injury could be a cause for concern ahead of their round-of-16 contest against Real Madrid. There is not a great deal of depth remaining in the final third, especially without long-term absentee Leroy Sane.
The burden will fall on Sergio Aguero to produce and he has not disappointed although, at the age of 31, the Argentine will feel that time is running out for him to win the Champions League. He’s not the only one, as Fernandinho and David Silva are also entering the final stages of their careers at the peak of the game.
As a result, the spotlight is on City more than ever to capitalize on their window. Guardiola has not been at his best in knockout games.
Without Lionel Messi to bail him out of trouble, he has watched his Bayern team defeated by Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Atletico Madrid in three-straight semi-finals. Other than the losses to Liverpool and Spurs, his City team were stunned by Monaco in the round of 16 in 2017.
He cannot afford to see his team underperform once again, although their defensive lapses of late will be a huge cause for concern amid the attacking talent that they will face in the latter stages.
Aymeric Laporte’s return to fitness will be crucial to shoring up the backline, while the rest of the side will have to be flawless. There can be no weak links against Real and beyond for City this time.