Thu. Mar 21st, 2019

Is this Man City’s best chance to conquer Europe? – Nevin analysis

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Manchester City marched into the quarter-finals of the Champions League with a thumping 7-0 win over Schalke on Tuesday night, to complete a 10-2 aggregate win.

They have only once gone further than the last eight, in 2016 when they lost to Real Madrid in the semi-finals.

City boss Pep Guardiola has described his club as being like “teenagers” in Europe’s elite club competition because of that lack of pedigree at this level, but will this be the year they come of age?

Pat Nevin, who was co-commentating on the Schalke game for BBC Radio 5 live, explains why he believes City have what it takes to go all the way to the final in Madrid on 1 June – but warns there are several reasons why things could go wrong… including Cristiano Ronaldo.

The line-up for the the last eight of the Champions League will be completed on Wednesday night when Bayern Munich play Liverpool and Barcelona take on Lyon. The draw for the quarter-finals is on Friday

‘The best team, player for player and the best squad too’

Nevin: “At their very best I would back City to beat anyone in Europe. The problem is it is a knock-out competition now, and they will need to be at their best every time.

“If they have a bad half-hour in the Champions League, then that is it – they are gone.

“They will need some luck too, of course, and part of that will be getting the right opponents in Friday’s quarter-final draw.

“There are so many factors involved that only a fool would say that any team will definitely win the Champions League – but if you asked me if City are good enough to win it then, yes, I think they are.

“Player for player, they are the best team left in it if everyone is fit – and if they do get injuries then they have got the best squad too, the deepest of any of the teams left in the competition.

A series of injuries has meant De Bruyne has started only 12 of City’s 38 games in all competitions this season

“For example, City have had to cope without Kevin de Bruyne for a big chunk of the season, which would crush a lot of teams because he is so brilliant.

“It has not affected them too much, though. They are so strong they have not missed one player, at least not yet anyway, and they have a genius of a manager because they play such fantastic football too.”

‘The final stretch is when things really get tough’

Nevin: “The biggest problem City have got is the same one as Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham, which is that it is hard to win the Premier League, or even to make the top four, and progress in Europe too.

“Our teams will never get a day off or an easy game domestically where they can think ‘oh we can rest a few here’ and save their legs for big Champions League games.

“If you look at the sides from elsewhere who have progressed, then they can all do that to some degree. They certainly do not have to maintain the same intensity that our top clubs will get in every league match, home or away, between now and the end of the season.

“I think that is one of the reasons that, for a few years now, English clubs have not done as well in Europe as they should have done.

“They should be dominating, with the money we have in our game and the calibre of players who have come to the Premier League, but Chelsea are the last English team to win the Champions League, in 2012.

“This year, we have four English teams left in it, which is kind of the situation I think we should have had for a while. They are all potential winners too, particularly City, because of the depth of their squad.

‘Not a case of now or never – but target must be the final’

City are top of the Premier League and retained the Carabao Cup final in February. They are into the quarter-finals of the Champions League and the FA Cup and are chasing an unprecedented quadruple

Nevin: “I would not call it failure if City don’t win the Champions League, because of the calibre of the teams in it, and also because it relies on a certain amount of luck.

“If they retain the Premier League title, which I believe they will do because they are the best team, while scoring the number of goals that they do, then it will be a brilliant season for them even if they miss out again in Europe.

“But, given the circumstances, and especially if they get a favourable draw, they should be aiming to get to at least the semi-final and probably to reach the final.

“I think they will be disappointed if they don’t make it to Madrid, because they really ought to be there.

“It is not a case of now or never, though, despite the threat of a possible European ban or transfer embargo that is hanging over their heads while Uefa and Fifa investigate them.

“At the moment, both of those scenarios are ‘maybes’ and if you are a player or even the manager then you cannot do anything about them.

“They just have to focus on what is in front of them, and I cannot see them doing anything differently just because there is some vague extra pressure somewhere that the upper echelons of the club are dealing with.

“I think it is unlikely City will be banned from the Champions League next year.

“If they are banned from making signings then I look at the group who played Schalke and also some of the kids coming through and think ‘no, this is not your last chance’.”

Who can stop them? Ronaldo can…

Ronaldo won the first of his five Champions League titles with City’s rivals Manchester United in 2008

Nevin: “Nobody thought Chelsea would be champions of Europe in 2012, but they got the right draw and everything just fell into place.

“What City should remember is that was not the greatest ever Chelsea side – far from it – but it is lauded and remembered now as the team that won the Champions League because they got an opportunity, and they took it.

“So, City have to be ready when that moment presents itself, and take advantage of it too.

“With Ajax beating Real Madrid, Manchester United beating Paris-St Germain and Juventus under pressure after losing the first leg of their last-16 tie to Atletico Madrid, I thought this season’s draw was opening up for them.

“I was asked before City and Juve played this week whether I considered City favourites for the tournament and I said ‘yes, slightly’.

“Now I am not so sure. If you go back to Pep’s comments that City are teenagers in this competition, then Juve are anything but. They are the grown-ups and I would make them joint-favourites with Pep’s side now.

“If you are trying to win the Champions League then you would rather they were out and, of all the teams in Friday’s quarter-final draw, they are the ones that City will want to stay well clear of.

“They are so well organised at the back that they could absolutely frustrate them, and of course they have got a former Manchester United player in Cristiano Ronaldo who would quite like to beat City, I expect.”

Pat Nevin was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan

Man City’s best chance to conquer Champions League? – Pat Nevin analysis

Manchester City marched into the quarter-finals of the Champions League with a thumping 7-0 win over Schalke on Tuesday night, to complete a 10-2 aggregate win. They have only once gone further than the last eight, in 2016 when they lost to Real Madrid in the semi-finals.

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