3 bold predictions for Man City in the UEFA Champions League group stages
Manchester City reached the final of the Champions League last season for the first time in their history. The squad led by coach Pep Guardiola was dominant in England and in Europe, but had no response to the Thomas Tuchel-led Chelsea in the final. A few months later, the Citizens enter the competition as the biggest favorites, alongside PSG and Chelsea, and here are 3 bold predictions about how City will do in the opening stage of UCL.
Phil Foden will be the best player in the team
City was lead mostly by Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan last year. It was their chemistry in the middle of the park that completely dominated all opponents, and it was an unfortunate injury to De Bruyne in the final that stopped the duo. However, that does not mean that the midfield of the English team is a two-man show.
Last year, seemingly out of nowhere, Phil Foden came out and absolutely amazed. The young midfielder played all thirteen games and while he only contributed with 3 goals, he was still mesmerizing. As the aforementioned Belgian and German players have not been exactly the same as last season at the start of the year, this is an opportunity for the youngster to really burst onto the scene and amaze everyone.
Foden does have more severe competition, now that the $138 million man Jack Grealish joined the roster. However, Grealish is yet to fully impact the City team, as there has to be an adjustment period from the focus of the offense, like he was in Aston Villa, to one of the stars in City, where he has to share the spotlight. All of these circumstances provide Foden with a unique opportunity to outshine his teammates, and outshine serious opposition, like players from PSG and RB Leipzig.
Manchester City will easily beat PSG in both games
Like it was mentioned above, Man City will share the group with the French giants PSG. These two teams, along with Chelsea, are the biggest favorites in the competition, and it is clear why. Chelsea won it last year and still added Romelu Lukaku and Saul Niguez, while PSG added Lionel Messi, Sergio Ramos, Georginio Wijnaldum and Achraf Hakimi; completing possibly the best transfer window in the history of football. Due to this factor, a group with both City and PSG means that we will see the best of the best face off right away, which actively excites all neutrals out there.
The consensus opinion seems to be that PSG is simply too strong, and that it is their competition to lose. Adding Messi to an attack with Kylian Mbappe and Neymar Jr. seems like a cheat code, while the defense has gotten a big boost with Ramos, a defender with immense experience. When Wijnaldum and Italian superstar goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma are added to the mix, this team seems unfair. However, it would be a little rash to pronounce them the undisputed winners yet.
Manchester City and their preferred eleven have been together for more than a year now, which is an underestimated note heading into the Champions League. It seems like the midfield knows exactly when the forwards are making runs and when they are supposed to keep the ball in the middle or pass it to the backline, and they are able to completely control any game. It was, of course, outmatched by the Chelsea midfield, but with all respect to PSG’s men in the middle, Chelsea is currently miles ahead of everyone.
The level of familiarity between the Citizens is remarkable for an era where teams are constantly changing, and that will most definitely help them fight off challengers in the Champions League. Thus, the feeling is that Man City will have the upper hand in both games, while the PSG line-up starts gelling together.
Ruben Dias will establish himself as the best defender in the world
Ever since Sergio Ramos started to lose his playing consistency due to age and injuries, there was an opening for the best defender in the world. While it seemed that Liverpool’s Virgin Van Dijk had this wrapped up, Man City defender Ruben Dias came out of nowhere to sweep up all possible awards in the EPL last season. It is true that Van Dijk was injured for the season, and that Dias did not have competition in that sense, but he still pulled out some amazing performances.
The 6-foot-1 center-back is an absolute rock in the middle of the park and it seems like he is the leader City was seeking after Vincent Kompany decided to end his career. Looking at the stats from last season, Dias led the City defense to 26 clean sheets, 7 of which were in the Champions League. Since City played 13 games, that means that in half of the games the opposition did not have an answer for Dias, John Stones and Ederson.
However, it is easy to assume that last season was not truly representative, and that Dias could be overvalued. However, even this season, Man City has been mesmerizing, except for one hiccup against Tottenham, scoring 10 and conceding only 1 goal. The Portuguese player has pulled absolutely all the right strings on a defense that conceded only a single goal, which was also fairly lucky to go in. All signs are truly pointing towards Ruben Dias having an amazing season once again, and it could propel him in the discussion for the best defender in the world.
Manchester City will be aiming for the top once again in the Champions League, as they should be with the investment that was placed in this squad. After a fairly slow transfer summer, it is clear that Guardiola and his staff are aiming for consistency and familiarity. Tectonic changes were undertaken by most other squads, while the boys from the Etihad mostly remained the same. It will be interesting to see how this change in policy will affect their chances in the biggest club competition in the world. One thing is for sure – Guardiola is hungry for more European success, with his last UCL title coming with Barcelona in 2011.