Can City Win the Champions League?
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City can reach the promised land this season. The Blues have never reached the final of Europe’s elite club competition but the Champions League is a realistic objective this term. City are already 12 points clear at the top of the Premier League table and Guardiola will have one eye on the upcoming European double header against FC Basel.
Getting past the Swiss champions will be no easy feat. Basel have won the Super League title in each of the last eight years and Manchester United fell short against Raphael Wicky’s men in the group stages back in November. In front of the deafeningly loud St Jakob-Park faithful, Basel will be quietly confident of taking a positive result into the second leg in Manchester.
For all of Basel’s confidence, Man City are a class above on paper. It would take a brave man to back against Guardiola’s side in this tie – City should have too much quality in key areas of the pitch for their opponents. In Kevin de Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva, City have the creative talent to cut through Basel’s defence on a regular basis. It could get very ugly indeed for the Swiss side.
Not only are City fancied to come out on top in this fixture, they are tipped to go on and win the Champions League. Guardiola has instilled a sense of belief at the Etihad Stadium and you wouldn’t bet against the Blues on current form. As of January 23, they are favourites here at 5/1 to go on and win Europe’s ultimate prize and punters will be keeping an eye on any injury news ahead of their last-16 clash.
To win the Champions League, you must be solid defensively. City have come under scrutiny in recent years but Pep has worked hard to bring stability to the back four. Ederson Moraes has been a significant upgrade at the goalkeeper position whilst Kyle Walker has adjusted quickly to life in Manchester. In addition, Fabian Delph looks like a brand new player at left back and Nicolas Otamendi is playing at a career-high level.
But despite their renewed prowess in defence, City are still prone to making errors. The Blues have kept just three clean sheets in their last 10 games and Pep won’t be satisfied yet. Stopping your rivals from scoring an away goal is vital – City have been sublime on home soil, winning their last 11 top flight games and scoring 41 goals in the process. With form like that, City are almost unbeatable in front of their own fans.
Pep Guardiola is not the messiah but he has helped to lead Manchester City to the next level and the Blues are well placed to claim a first Champions League crown. Basel are no slouches by any means but City could have had a much tougher tie. With a relatively straightforward passage into the quarter-finals, Pep’s men will be quietly confident of going all the way to the showpiece event in Kyiv.