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26 February, 2015

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Manchester City's Champions League history

24 February, 2015

Manchester City competing in the Champions League seems a pretty common sight nowadays.

The likes of Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure and David Silva pulled on the sky blue jersey and pitted their wits against the best Europe has to offer seems like the norm. However, this has been far from the case as prior to 2011, City had not featured in the elite competition since being knocked out of the European Cup by Fenerbahce in 1968.

City made their debut in the Champions League in 2011 after a third-place finished in the 2010/11 season. So, as they gear up for a last-16 showdown with Spanish giants Barcelona, we look back at City's foray in Europe's elite football competition.

2011/12 season

Fresh from an FA Cup victory, their first trophy in 35 years, City entered their first-ever Champions League campaign full of confidence. Signings such as Sergio Aguero, Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy had given Roberto Mancini's men genuine title aspirations as well as making an impression in Europe.

Dealt a group of Bayern Munich, Napoli and Villarreal it provided City with an opportunity to make a mark on the competition. However, it started in a somewhat disappointing fashion with a 1-1 draw at home to the Italians and a 2-0 defeat to Bayern in the Allianz Arena.

The game in Bavaria will forever be remembered for the spat between Mancini and striker Carlos Tevez. With City trailing 2-0, substitute Tevez appeared to refuse Mancini's request to warm-up. The incident prompted the Italian manager to claim the striker was "out" of his team for the foreseeable future.

A crunch game at home to Villarreal was won thanks to a 93rd goal from Aguero, while a 3-0 victory in Spain gave City a hope of qualification. However, a damaging defeat to Napoli in Naples left the team with an uphill task. Despite a 2-0 win over Bayern, Napoli had won in Villarreal to send City out.

Their European campaign ended with an aggregate defeat to Sporting Lisbon in the last-16 of the Europa League.

2012/13 season

City entered the 2012/13 Champions League campaign as Premier League champions but hugely underperformed in Europe. Drawn against tough opposition such as Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Ajax, things simply went from bad to worse in a disastrous campaign.

A narrow 3-2 defeat to Jose Mourinho's Real at the Bernabeu set the tone for City's group stage. Despite being 2-1 ahead with five minutes remaining, goals from Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo gave Real the win.

A man of the match performance from goalkeeper Joe Hart was needed to keep Dortmund to just 1-0 ahead at the Etihad and a penalty from Mario Balotelli gave City a hugely undeserved point. Jurgen Klopp's men were the surprise package of the group, topping the group undefeated on 14 points. They would go on to lose to Bayern Munich in the final.

For City, the back-to-back games against Ajax were meant to get their campaign back on track but a 3-1 defeat in Amsterdam and a 2-2 draw at the Etihad effectively put them out. A 1-1 stalemate against Real confirmed it and a 1-0 defeat in Dortmund rounded off a thoroughly miserable campaign.

2013/14 season

Chilean Manuel Pellegrini was in the City hot seat for the 2013/14 Champions League campaign. The group pitted City against Bayern once again as well as the Czech Republic's Viktoria Plzen and Russia's CSKA Moscow.

It was a much better performance from City this time round as they breezed through the group with one defeat to table toppers Bayern at the Etihad. However, they could have topped Group D had Pellegrini's maths been a bit better.

In the final game they found themselves 2-0 down at the Allianz but goals from David Silva, Aleksander Kolarov and James Milner had turned the game around with half an hour to go. What Pellegrini seemed to not realise was that a 4-2 victory would give them top spot and he opted against putting sub Sergio Aguero on in favour of defensive midfielder Jack Rodwell.

The decision they may have regretted once City drew Barcelona in the last-16. A 2-0 win in Manchester and a 2-1 victory at the Nou Camp, while all the goals coming from Lionel Messi and Dani Alves gave Barcelona a 4-1 aggregate win over a fairly meek City side.

Man City renew old rivalries against Barcelona

24 February, 2015

Manchester City welcome Barcelona to the Etihad Stadium tonight (February 24th) aiming to banish the memories of last season's Champions League exit.
The Catalans brushed aside City in the last-16 last February with a comfortable 4-1 aggregate win over the English champions. The Sky Blues are yet to make the quarter finals of the Champions League in three attempts while their opponents are looking to make an eighth-straight last-eight.
Barcelona's visit to the Etihad sees the return of Luis Suarez who has not played on English soil since swapping Liverpool for Catalonia in the summer. The Uruguayan is part of a formidable front three alongside Brazilian Neymar and, of course, Barca's talisman Lionel Messi. Barcelona boss Luis Enrique is only without long-term absentees Douglas and Thomas Vermaelen.
For City manager Manuel Pellegrini, he needs to find a way through the former European champions without Yaya Toure. The Ivorian is still suspended after being dismissed during the group stage defeat against CSKA Moscow. He is able to call on the services of James Milner who has recovered from injury while new signing Wilfried Bony could make his first start for the club.
City's record in the Champions League is disappointing. Their first two campaigns ended in elimination in the group stages while last season they were outplayed by Barcelona both home and away. However, striker Sergio Aguero believes that they have a good a chance as any to progress.
Speaking to the club's official website, Aguero said: "This is a new game and we're not the same as we were last season and they aren't, either.
"Both teams have had reinforcements that have improved the squad so we'll have to see what kind of game it is, but one thing I think I can say with confidence is that they are both going to be great games."
Prior to a shock 1-0 home defeat to Malaga on Saturday, Barcelona had been in formidable form winning their past 11 games. City themselves have picked up from their recent blip and demolished Newcastle 5-0 at the weekend. Pellegrini will be wanting to continue this level of performance into the Champions League game.
City's record against Spanish opponents is pretty poor with only three wins in 11 matches. The club's recent duals against Iberian teams has seen them lose and draw with Real Madrid while beat Villarreal home and away.

Man City renew old rivalries against Barcelona

24 February, 2015

Manchester City welcome Barcelona to the Etihad Stadium tonight (February 24th) aiming to banish the memories of last season's Champions League exit.

The Catalans brushed aside City in the last-16 last February with a comfortable 4-1 aggregate win over the English champions. The Sky Blues are yet to make the quarter finals of the Champions League in three attempts while their opponents are looking to make an eighth-straight last-eight.

Barcelona's visit to the Etihad sees the return of Luis Suarez who has not played on English soil since swapping Liverpool for Catalonia in the summer. The Uruguayan is part of a formidable front three alongside Brazilian Neymar and, of course, Barca's talisman Lionel Messi. Barcelona boss Luis Enrique is only without long-term absentees Douglas and Thomas Vermaelen.

For City manager Manuel Pellegrini, he needs to find a way through the former European champions without Yaya Toure. The Ivorian is still suspended after being dismissed during the group stage defeat against CSKA Moscow. He is able to call on the services of James Milner who has recovered from injury while new signing Wilfried Bony could make his first start for the club.

City's record in the Champions League is disappointing. Their first two campaigns ended in elimination in the group stages while last season they were outplayed by Barcelona both home and away. However, striker Sergio Aguero believes that they have a good a chance as any to progress.

Speaking to the club's official website, Aguero said: "This is a new game and we're not the same as we were last season and they aren't, either.

"Both teams have had reinforcements that have improved the squad so we'll have to see what kind of game it is, but one thing I think I can say with confidence is that they are both going to be great games."

Prior to a shock 1-0 home defeat to Malaga on Saturday, Barcelona had been in formidable form winning their past 11 games. City themselves have picked up from their recent blip and demolished Newcastle 5-0 at the weekend. Pellegrini will be wanting to continue this level of performance into the Champions League game.

City's record against Spanish opponents is pretty poor with only three wins in 11 matches. The club's recent duals against Iberian teams has seen them lose and draw with Real Madrid while beat Villarreal home and away.

Man City out for revenge against Newcastle

20 February, 2015

Friday, February 20, 2015

Manchester City return to Premier League action on Saturday (February 21st) with revenge on the mind.
Manuel Pellegrini's men welcome Newcastle to the Etihad Stadium where they will be looking to avenge their Capital One Cup exit earlier in the season. City were unceremoniously dumped out of the League Cup by Alan Pardew's side in October thanks to goals from Rolando Aarons and Moussa Sissoko.
The victory was Newcastle's first at the Etihad in 12 attempts but when the sides meet on Saturday much will have changed. For the visitors, Pardew's reign came to an end in January when he swapped Tyneside for south London to take over at Crystal Palace. He has been replaced by former assistant John Carver, who has been given the job until the end of the season.
For City, their stuttering league form has seen them fall seven points behind leaders Chelsea. They were humiliated in the FA Cup when Championship side Middlesbrough came away with a 2-0 victory but they managed to qualify for the knockout phase of the Champions League and face Barcelona in the coming days.
It will be interesting to see whether Pellegrini decides to rest key players ahead of the first leg showdown with the Catalan giants, especially considering the way City were knocked out by the former European champions last year.
City will be boosted by the return of midfielder Yaya Toure who recently lifted the African Cup of Nations with the Ivory Coast. Pellegrini will also finally be able to call upon the services of new signing Wilfried Bony, who has also been representing the Ivorians in Equatorial Guinea. This combined with a clean bill of health means Pellegrini will have a full strength squad to choose from.
The reigning champions looked to back to their best in their last outing as they breezed past a stubborn Stoke City side at the Britannia Stadium. Two goals from Sergio Aguero and one each from James Milner and Samir Nasri gave City a comfortable 4-1 victory.
If City are to close the gap on Chelsea they need to arrest their poor home form. The Sky Blues have not won at the Etihad in the league since New Year's Day when they only edged past Sunderland 3-2. Since then they have squeezed past Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup  and lost to Arsenal and Middlesbrough. Only a last-minute Milner free-kick prevented another defeat in the league to Hull.
A further slip up on Saturday could prove hugely costly for City's title aspirations.

Man City out for revenge against Newcastle

20 February, 2015

Manchester City return to Premier League action on Saturday (February 21st) with revenge on the mind.

Manuel Pellegrini's men welcome Newcastle to the Etihad Stadium where they will be looking to avenge their Capital One Cup exit earlier in the season. City were unceremoniously dumped out of the League Cup by Alan Pardew's side in October thanks to goals from Rolando Aarons and Moussa Sissoko.

The victory was Newcastle's first at the Etihad in 12 attempts but when the sides meet on Saturday much will have changed. For the visitors, Pardew's reign came to an end in January when he swapped Tyneside for south London to take over at Crystal Palace. He has been replaced by former assistant John Carver, who has been given the job until the end of the season.

For City, their stuttering league form has seen them fall seven points behind leaders Chelsea. They were humiliated in the FA Cup when Championship side Middlesbrough came away with a 2-0 victory but they managed to qualify for the knockout phase of the Champions League and face Barcelona in the coming days.

It will be interesting to see whether Pellegrini decides to rest key players ahead of the first leg showdown with the Catalan giants, especially considering the way City were knocked out by the former European champions last year.

City will be boosted by the return of midfielder Yaya Toure who recently lifted the African Cup of Nations with the Ivory Coast. Pellegrini will also finally be able to call upon the services of new signing Wilfried Bony, who has also been representing the Ivorians in Equatorial Guinea. This combined with a clean bill of health means Pellegrini will have a full strength squad to choose from.

The reigning champions looked to back to their best in their last outing as they breezed past a stubborn Stoke City side at the Britannia Stadium. Two goals from Sergio Aguero and one each from James Milner and Samir Nasri gave City a comfortable 4-1 victory.

If City are to close the gap on Chelsea they need to arrest their poor home form. The Sky Blues have not won at the Etihad in the league since New Year's Day when they only edged past Sunderland 3-2. Since then they have squeezed past Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup  and lost to Arsenal and Middlesbrough. Only a last-minute Milner free-kick prevented another defeat in the league to Hull.

A further slip up on Saturday could prove hugely costly for City's title aspirations.

Can Man City break Chelsea's Stamford Bridge dominance?

30 January, 2015

Manchester City travel to Chelsea on Saturday evening (January 31st) aiming to break a Stamford Bridge hoodoo.

The Premier League's top two go head-to-head in West London this weekend with Chelsea sitting five points clear of the reigning champions. A defeat last time out to Arsenal has left City in the wake of Jose Mourinho's men who thrashed Swansea 5-0 at the Liberty Stadium. City travel to Stamford Bridge having only won twice there since the Premier League formed in 1992.

City's last victory at Chelsea came in 2010 when Roberto Mancini's side came away with a stunning 4-2 victory. The game was overshadowed by Wayne Bridge's refusal to shake John Terry's hand as they came face-to-face for the first time since allegations about Terry's relationship with Bridge's former partner.

This Saturday is not surrounded by such controversies but it could a long way to deciding where the Premier League title will end up in May. A win for Chelsea would put them eight points clear of City and 13 points ahead of third-placed Southampton, should the Saints lose against Swansea at St Mary's.

Both sides come into this crunch match on the back of cup exploits. Last week saw both Chelsea and City dumped out of the FA Cup by lower league opposition. While City fell to Championship side Middlesbrough at the Etihad, the bigger story was at Stamford Bridge where League One Bradford City came from 2-0 down to beat Mourinho's men 4-2.

Chelsea bounced back during the week with a hard-fought win over Liverpool in the Capital One Cup semi-final. The Blues needed extra time to see off the Reds but a header from Branislav Ivanovic gave them a 1-0 win on the night and a 2-1 aggregate victory, setting up a final appearance against Tottenham at Wembley.

City head to West London with almost a full bill of health with only midfielder Samir Nasri and defender Eliaquim Mangala ruled out through injury while Yaya Toure and Wilfried Bony are still at the African Cup of Nations. Manager Manuel Pellegrini will be hoping to get a positive result at Stamford Bridge after facing criticism last week for the late arrival of his players from a warm weather training camp in Abu Dhabi ahead of the Middlesbrough match.

All the talk in the Chelsea camp is whether striker Diego Costa will receive a ban for an alleged stamp on Liverpool's Emre Can during the League Cup semi final. The Spanish international was charged by the FA over the incident but has chose to appeal the decision. Costa also appeared to stamp on defender Martin Skrtel later in the match.

Should Costa be suspended he will miss Saturday's game against City.

Middlesbrough dump Man City out of the FA Cup

26 January, 2015

Manchester City's FA Cup campaign was abruptly ended on Saturday (January 24th) with a shock defeat to Championship side Middlesbrough.

Despite fielding a side which boasted such talents as Sergio Aguero, Vincent Kompany and David Silva, the Premier League champions were thoroughly outplayed by the Teessiders. Goals from Patrick Bamford and substitute Kike gave the Championship's high flyers a 2-0 lead, much to the delight of their 5,500 travelling fans.

The inquest now begins for manager Manuel Pellegrini who defended City's five-day warm-weather training trip to Abu Dhabi in the week before the game. City only arrived back in Manchester on Friday evening and they looked to fade in the second half while Middlesbrough were vibrant and took full advantage.

Speaking after the match, Pellegrini refused to blame the trip to the United Arab Emirates as a factor in his side's defeat. When asked about whether it was wise to take the team on such a long trip in the build-up to an important match in the FA Cup, Pellegrini defended the decision.

"I don't think so, I don't agree but you can have your opinion. I have a different opinion. We had six or seven clear chances to score at the beginning. I think there are a lot of football reasons rather than Abu Dhabi. They are different things," the Chilean said.

The warning signs were there early on for City as Middlesbrough arrived at the Etihad Stadium full of confidence. Striker Lee Tomlin had a goal ruled out for offside but it was City that started the brighter, peppering the visitors goal in a period of intense pressure. Goalkeeper Tomas Mejias, in for the rested Dimi Konstantopoulos, had to be called upon throughout the half, making six excellent saves.

Middlesbrough rode the storm and returned in the second half and took the lead when a slack back pass from Fernando let in Albert Adomah. The striker tackled City keeper Willy Caballero and as the Brazilian attempted to make amends for the error, he cannoned the clearance off the on-rushing Bamford who made it 1-0 to the visitors.

The Teessiders were desperately unlucky not to go 2-0 ahead when a superb turn and shot hit from Tomlin hit the inside of the post and away to safety. Substitute Frank Lampard saw a deflected shot come back off the woodwork but Middlesbrough secured the win in the final moments when Kike fired a low shot past Caballero.

City must now regroup for a top of the table clash against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. The Blues were also subject of an FA Cup shock, beaten 4-2 by League One side Bradford City at home.

Manchester City look to make it 15 unbeaten as Arsenal head to the Etihad

16 January, 2015

Manchester City are looking to go 15 games unbeaten in all competitions as they welcome Arsenal to the Etihad Stadium on Sunday (January 18th).

Manuel Pellegrini's men have not lost since November 5th when their Champions League future seemed to be in jeopardy when CSKA Moscow left Eastlands with a 2-1 victory. Since then however it has been a dramatic turnaround as the Premier League champions closed the gap on leaders Chelsea to two points and qualified for the Champions League knockout phase.

The run has culminated in a nine-game winning streak that placed City within striking distance of the summit of the Premier League. However, disappointing draws at home to Burnley and away to Everton has meant Chelsea have been able to retain a gap between themselves and the chasing pack.

Sunday sees City welcome Arsenal to the Etihad and Arsene Wenger's men will pose a stern test of the champions' mettle. Pellegrini, recently named as Manager of the Month for December, will be without the services of Yaya Toure and new signing Wilfried Bony who are both on international duty with Ivory Coast at the African Cup of Nations.

Bony's signing was confirmed earlier in the week with City paying £28 million for the Swansea forward, who was the Premier League's top goalscorer in 2014. The purchase of the Ivorian relieves some of the pressure on City's strikeforce of Edin Dzeko, Sergio Aguero and Stevan Jovetic.

Pellegrini was given a boost when both Jovetic and Aguero played a part in the draw at Goodison Park following lengthy spells on the sidelines. City will also be able to welcome back Dzeko this weekend who has been deemed fit again. Injuries to the front three had prompted Pellegrini to play midfielder James Milner in an unorthodox false nine position and will have no doubt been a factor in the Bony transfer.

Opponents have been in relatively good form of late. Wenger's side cemented fifth place in the Premier League last weekend with a convincing 3-0 over Stoke City. It was the perfect tonic for the Frenchman who had been critical of his side and goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny after the defeat to Southampton on New Year's Day.

In Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal have a player in scintillating form. The Chilean has already racked up 18 goals so far this season and underlined his worth to the team by scoring twice against Stoke. Wenger will be without defender Mathieu Debuchy and midfielder Mikel Arteta who have both been ruled out for three months.

City remain unbeaten at the Etihad since 2010 when the Gunners came away with a 3-0 victory.

Yaya Toure set for African Cup of Nations

12 January, 2015

Manchester City could be without midfielder Yaya Toure for up to five games as he jets out to Equatorial Guinea for the start of the African Cup of Nations.

The talismanic Toure was missing from City's 1-1 draw at Everton as the Ivory Coast prepare for their opening game of the tournament against Guinea on January 20th. The draw at Goodison Park meant the Premier League champions slipped two points behind leaders Chelsea, who beat Newcastle 2-0 at Stamford Bridge.

In what was a tight game, Fernandinho had looked to give City all three points when he put them ahead with a scrambled goal with 16 minutes remaining. However, Everton rallied and were back on level terms in just four minutes when Steven Naismith beat Joe Hart to a Leighton Baines cross to equalise for the home side.

Manager Manuel Pellegrini may look back on this as a missed opportunity to keep pressure on Chelsea. He will also be wary that Toure is set to miss some crucial games at home to Arsenal and away to the league leaders. The Ivorian will also sit out the FA Cup fourth round tie against Middlesbrough.

Should Ivory Coast reach the final in Bata on February 8th, the earliest Toure can return to City action would be the away game at Stoke on February 11th. However, the more likely return date would be a potential FA Cup fifth round tie on February 14th, 15th or 16th, should City beat Middlesbrough. Failing that, the home game against on February 21st against Newcastle would see the Ivorian's return.

It is not just Toure City could be without when the African Cup of Nations kicks off on January 17th. Wilfried Bony has also been named in the Ivory Coast squad alongside Toure and the Swansea City player is currently subject of a transfer bid from City.

Both the champions and Swansea announced that they had agreed a fee of £28 million for the striker who joined the Welsh club for a record £12 million from Vitesse Arnhem in 2013. Bony was the Premier League's top scorer in 2014 with 20 goals.

The clubs are hoping for the deal to be concluded in the next 48 hours with City not expecting any hitches in both personals terms and medical despite Bony being on international duty. The transfer aims to tackle City's injury problems upfront with the likes of Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic being sidelined in recent weeks.

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