Man City look to continue Magpie dominance in the League Cup

29 October, 2014

Manchester City will look to return to winning ways as they entertain Newcastle United in the fourth round of the Capital One Cup at the Etihad Stadium this evening (October 29th).

The Sky Blues suffered a dent in their Premier League title defence when they lost 2-1 away at West Ham on Saturday but they will be aiming to right those wrongs against the Magpies, who picked up only their second win of the season on Sunday.

City boast an impressive record against the visitors having never lost to Newcastle at the Etihad, and have not tasted defeat against their north-east opponents since 2005, a run which stretches back 17 games. Manager Manuel Pellegrini will be hopeful that this form continues as his team make a bid for the quarter finals.

The League Cup was the first piece of silverware that Pellegrini tasted as City boss when the Sky Blues came from behind to beat Sunderland 3-1 at Wembley in March. While the Chilean's main focus is always retaining the Premier League title, he denied that he would be taking the Capital One Cup for granted.

Speaking ahead of tonight's match, Pellegrini said: "If you ask me if I prefer to win the Premier League, maybe, but that doesn't mean that you don't want to win the Capital One Cup which is why we are involving the whole squad in this game."

Pellegrini and City have an enviable record in the League Cup having not lost since September 2012. The cup holders have averaged over four goals a game in their last seven matches and made short work of Championship side Sheffield Wednesday in the last round. Despite being held 0-0 at the interval, a second half blitz saw City run out 7-0 winners.

The Sky Blues also boast an almost fully fit squad heading into tonight's game but with a showdown with cross-city rivals Manchester United looming on Sunday, Pellegrini could be tempted to make a number of changes. However, the City boss will not be able to call on the services of Frank Lampard, who was inspirational in the demolition job of Sheffield Wednesday, but is ruled out with a thigh injury.

Newcastle have injury concerns of their own with Papiss Cisse, Emmanuel Riviere, Mike Williamson and Cheick Tiote all expected to be unavailable.

City edged past Newcastle at this stage last year with goals from Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko handing the Manchester side a 2-0 extra time win at St James' Park.

Lions stage dramatic comeback to beat the Falcons in London

27 October, 2014

A last gasp field goal from Matt Prater handed Detroit Lions a dramatic win against the Atlanta Falcons at Wembley Stadium.

The Lions entered the third quarter trailing 21-0 to their Georgia opponents but stormed back with 22 unanswered points in front of 83,000 fans in London. Two touchdown passes from quarterback Matt Stafford and two field goals from Prater pulled Detroit right back into the tie and it was the laces of Prater that handed the Lions the victory.

Success at the NFL International Series puts the Lions on a three game winning streak heading into a tough showdown against the Miami Dolphins early next month. For Atlanta, however, head coach Mike Smith will be scratching his head wondering how this game got away from his team. The Falcons are now without a win since September 18th notching up their fifth straight defeat in London.

It was all going so well for the Falcons with quarterback Matt Ryan highlighting the reason why he is so crucial to this team, throwing two touchdown passes to Devonta Freeman and Bear Pascoe. The Falcons completely dominated the early exchanges and took a commanding 21-0 lead when Steven Jackson ran in from one yard.

Detroit barely lay a glove on their Georgia counterparts but thought they had got back into it when Rashean Mathis intercepted a pass in his own end zone and ran 102 yards for a touchdown. However, his effort was ruled out for a foul earlier in the build-up.

With the Falcons sensing victory, Detroit came out after half time a completely changed team with Stafford leading from the front. A 59-yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate put the Lions on the scoreboard and another six-points from Theo Riddick, complemented by a field goal from Prater put Detroit within two points of victory.

As the clock ticked down the Lions pushed hard for the win and their chance arose with a delay-of-game penalty with just four seconds remaining. The drama intensified when Prater missed the 43-yard effort but was given a second bite of the cherry from 48 yards which he duly converted.

Detroit players mobbed Prater as the ball sailed over the posts and the win sends the Lions to the top of NFC North ahead of the Green Bay Packers who were soundly beaten 44-23 by the New Orleans Saints.

The game is the second of the 2014 NFL International Series at Wembley Stadium with the Dallas Cowboys taking on the Jacksonville Jaguars early in November.

NFL International Series team profile: Atlanta Falcons

24 October, 2014

The 2014 NFL International Series continues at Wembley Stadium this Sunday (October 26th). The second match sees the Detroit Lions take on the Atlanta Falcons in the London showpiece event. In the fourth of our series looking at the franchises competing in the matches we focus on the Atlanta Falcons.

History

The Atlanta Falcons were founded in 1965 when NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle granted ownership to executive vice president president of Life Insurance Company of Georgia, Rankin M. Smith, Snr. As one of the newer NFL franchises they spent no time securing players, with Tommy Nobis from the University of Texas becoming the Falcons' first ever draft pick in 1966.

Atlanta's introduction to life in the NFL was not easy and they lost their opening nine games of the 1966 season before finally securing a victory over the New York Giants. The Falcons struggled to impose themselves on the league in the early years of their foundations and it would not be until 1978 until they made their first foray into the play-offs, eventually losing to the Dallas Cowboys.

The 1980s bore much more fruit for the team from Georgia. Spearheaded by quarterback Steve Bartkowski, the Falcons won the NFC West division championship in 1980 but lost out to the Cowboys again in the play-offs. The loss is described as one of the most devastating in Falcons history as Dallas came from 20 points down to win the match.

As they entered the 1990s, Atlanta appeared in the play-offs three more times and as NFC West champions in 1998. It set up their one and only Super Bowl appearance where they lost out to the Denver Broncos 34-19.

Into the new millennium and the Falcons have been regular features in the play-offs, appearing no less than six times, winning the NFC South championship on three separate occasions. However, another shot at the big prize still eludes them.

Stadium

The Georgia Dome has been the home of the Falcons since 1992 following their relocation from theIR original base of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. The 74,228-capacity stadium has hosted two Super Bowls in the past in 1994 and 2000, with the Cowboys and the St Louis Rams hoisting the famous Vince Lombardi trophy afloat on those occasions.

It also played its part in the 1996 Summer Olympics hosting basketball, artistic gymnastics and team handball. The rise of soccer in the US has seen the Georgia Dome host a number of Gold Cup matches and US Men's National Team matches.

The Falcons are expected to leave the Georgia Dome in 2017 and move into the state-of-the-art New Atlanta Stadium where they will share the ground with the city's new Major League Soccer team.

Key player

The Falcons arrive in London in somewhat of a rut in terms of form. Currently 2-5 in the regular season they will be looking to quarterback Matt Ryan to provide the inspiration to guide them to victory under the Wembley arch. Ryan has been at the heart of the Falcons team since being drafted in the first round in 2008.

Ryan is integral to the Falcons' passing game, contributing to 26 touchdowns in the 2013 season and it was his ability to pick players out that gave Atlanta their run to the play-offs in 2012. Linking up well with wide receiver Julio Jones to fire the Falcons into the post season, only to be beaten by the San Francisco 49ers.

Head coach Mike Smith will once again be looking to his quarterback to break The Dirty Birds out their losing streak with a win in London.

Super Bowl history

Like their Wembley opponents, the Detroit Lions, the Falcons have never won a Super Bowl. Unlike their Michigan counterparts, however, they have got to the biggest stage of them all as they competed for Super Bowl XXXIII.

The Falcons travelled to the Pro Player Stadium in Miami in January 1999 full of confidence after winning the NFC West championship. They had beaten the 49ers and the Minnesota Vikings along the way to set up a Super Bowl date with the Denver Broncos.

Atlanta started brightly going 3-0 up but touchdowns from Howard Griffith and Rod Smith put the Broncos 17-6 ahead at half time. Atlanta were able to gain some momentum and scored two touchdowns but were ultimately outplayed by Denver who 34-19.

Since then they have not returned to compete for the famous Vince Lombardi trophy.

2014 season

Much was expected of this Falcons side in the pre-season even despite a disappointing 4-12 2013 campaign. An overtime victory against the New Orleans Saints on opening day filled fans with confidence but the Falcons have slipped away in recent weeks. Their only other win came against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on September 18th and they are currently on a four-game losing streak.

Since that opening day win, the Falcons have lost to the Cincinnati Bengals, Minnesota Vikings, New York Giants, Chicago Bears and the Baltimore Ravens, leaving them third in the NFC South.

There is a ray of light for Falcons' fans heading to Wembley however as Atlanta have beaten opponents Detroit in four of the last five meetings between the two.

Fun fact

The Simpsons' bartender Moe Szyslak is a big Atlanta Falcons fan as mentioned when he, Homer and a number of other characters go to the Super Bowl in the episode 'Sunday, Cruddy Sunday'.

NFL International Series team profile: Detroit Lions

22 October, 2014

The 2014 NFL International Series continues at Wembley Stadium this Sunday (October 26th). The second match sees the Detroit Lions take on the Atlanta Falcons in the London showpiece event. In the third of our series looking at the franchises competing in the matches we focus on the Detroit Lions.

History

Detroit Lions are one of the oldest football teams in the NFL but they were originally formed as the Portsmouth Spartans in Ohio in 1929. They started in impressive fashion, beating the Ironton Tanks twice and recorded a first year in the NFL with a 5-6-3 record. Reaching the first ever NFL play-off in 1932 was the height of Spartans' life but they lost out 9-0 to the Chicago Bears.

The Great Depression threatened the future of the Spartans and in 1934, Detroit radio executive George Richards purchased the financially threatened franchise for $7,952.08 (£4,928.90) and brought them to Michigan. Naming them the Detroit Lions, complementing the MLB side the Detroit Tigers, Richards said that he wanted the Lions to be the "monarch of the NFL".

Detroit started off life in their new surroundings well but it was not until the 1950s where they truly hit their stride. The decade would see the Lions collect three NFL Championships to go alongside the 1935 title won by the Spartans. They won back-to-back titles in 1952 and 1953 before claiming another in 1958.

Unfortunately the next 50 years would be a barren time for the Lions with many conspiracy theorists putting it down to the "Curse of Bobby Layne". Lions quarterback Layne won all three championships in Detroit but when he was traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1958, it was claimed he said the Lions would "not win for 50 years".

The Lions have only had one playoff win since then, beating the Dallas Cowboys in 1991 before being eliminated by the Washington Redskins. They remain one of just four franchises never to have competed in a Super Bowl.

Stadium

The Lions have been playing their home matches at the impressive Ford Field since 2002 after relocating from the Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan. Regularly holding 70,000 supporters, the stadium is a true mecca for football fans.

In the past it has held numerous sporting events including the MAC Championship Game, Michigan High School Football Championship Game Division 1-8 and WWE's WrestleMania 23 in 2007. The latter attracted the biggest crowd ever at Ford Field when 80,103 wrestling fans packed the rafters of the Downtown Detroit stadium.

The naming rights were purchased by the Ford Motor Company for $40 million for a 20-year lease.

Key player

Detroit head to Wembley still sweating on the fitness of wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Nicknamed Megatron, Johnson is an integral part of the Lions' passing game but has been missing for the past two games. Megatron's natural replacement is Golden Tate, a new recruit from 2013 Super Bowl winners the Seattle Seahawks.

The Lions' success in London will boil down to the performance of the 26-year-old. Tate has deputised well in the absence of Johnson scoring two touchdowns so far this season. The Seattle recruit has linked up well with quarterback Matthew Stanford, especially during the Lions' last match with the New Orleans Saints.

Trailing 23-10 with just over five minutes to play, the Lions stormed back and were inspired by a 73-year catch-and-run touchdown from Tate. The unlikely win was rounded off with another touchdown from Corey Fuller, giving the Lions an 24-23 win.

If the Lions are to continue their form in London without Johnson, Tate will need to reproduce performances like this.

Super Bowl history

Detroit are among four franchises who have the unenviable title of never competing in a Super Bowl. Alongside the Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans and the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Lions have never made it to the "grandest stage of all".

The Lions have had a turgid time when it comes to the play-offs, only making the post-season once since the millennium, in 2011. Even then they were soundly beaten by the New Orleans Saints. Many will still look to the "Curse of Bobby Layne" theory which still plagues the Lions to this very day.

The ironic aspect of this is that prior to the creation of the Super Bowl in 1966, the Lions were flying, winning three NFL Championships in the 1950s. However, when it comes to the biggest prize in NFL, the grand stage eludes them.

2014 season

The Lions head to Wembley in great form, sitting top of the NFC North and only losing twice in their opening seven games. Only the Carolina Panthers and the Buffalo Bills have been able to overcome the Lions so far and they will go to London buoyed by the stunning win over the Saints in their last outing.

Detroit's victory over the Saints put them on a two-game winning streak after beating the Minnesota Vikings at the TCF Bank Stadium a week earlier.

Despite their strong form, the Atlanta Falcons have become somewhat of a bogey team for the Lions with Detroit losing four of the last five meetings.

Man City throw away 2 goal lead to draw in Moscow

22 October, 2014

Manchester City face an uphill battle to qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League after they stuttered in Moscow.

The Premier League champions squandered a two-goal lead against CSKA Moscow only to draw and have collected just two points from three games in the group stages. With a tough trip to Roma and a home game against 2013 Champions League winners Bayern Munich ahead, City boss Manuel Pellegrini will see this result as a huge missed opportunity to put his side within touching distance of qualification.

Playing in front of a sparse crowd at the Arena Khimki, due to a stadium ban imposed by UEFA on CSKA following crowd disturbances during their Group E opener against Roma, City got off to the perfect start. Sergio Aguero, fresh from putting four past Tottenham Hotspur at the weekend, put the visitors ahead, tapping in Edin Dzeko's pass across the box.

It got even better for City seven minutes before half time when Aguero turned provider for James Milner. The Argentinian's scuffed shot allowed Milner to race in and slide home a second beyond the helpless Igor Akinfeev in the CSKA goal. The Englishman almost made three moments later when he smashed a shot off the post.

It was a much different story after the break as City were stunned by their Russian hosts. The introduction of Seydou Doumbia from the bench galvanised CSKA and as City eased off the home side grew in confidence. They got a foothold in the game when Ahmed Musa fired an effort across goal for Doumbia to convert.

Musa and former Manchester United player Zoran Tosic both went close to equalising but it was Doumbia who was running the show. CSKA's efforts paid dividends with just four minutes remaining when Doumbia went in the area under a challenge from Aleksander Kolarov for a controversial penalty. Bedras Natcho held his nerve to equalise, leaving City unable to grab a winner.

The Sky Blues now have a tough task ahead if they are to qualify for the knockout stages. They face CSKA at the Etihad in two weeks' time in what is a must win game before facing group leaders Bayern in Manchester and then travelling to Rome for a potentially decisive showdown against Roma.

City will take some comfort that they are not too far behind second place after the Italians were embarrassed 7-1 at the Stadio Olimpico by Bayern.

Sergio Aguero scores 4 as Man City thrash Tottenham

20 October, 2014

Manchester City kept up the pressure on league leaders Chelsea after a 4-1 thrashing of Tottenham Hotspur at the Etihad Stadium.

Sergio Aguero stole the show scoring four goals and missing a penalty in a pulsating match on Saturday lunchtime. The reigning champions also had goalkeeper Joe Hart to thanks as the England number saved a Roberto Soldado penalty in the 60th minute with the game tied at 2-1. City never looked back and two more from Aguero gave them the three points.

The victory put City within two points of Jose Mourinho's side but the Londoners retained their five-point lead at the top of the Premier League after beating Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park later in the day.

City boss Manuel Pellegrini decided to call upon the services of Frank Lampard once again with Yaya Toure starting from the bench. It did not take long for City and Aguero to hit their stride with the Argentinian scoring a superb individual goal after just 13 minutes. Picking up a Lampard pass, Aguero fired a low shot into the bottom corner.

Tottenham, looking to avoid a repeat of the 6-0 mauling at the hands of City last season, responded well and were back on terms within two minutes. Soldado muscled Fernando off the ball to slip in the excellent Christian Eriksen who beat Hart with a fierce drive. Unfortunately, for the North London side, that was as good as it got.

Aguero restored City's lead from the spot with a coolly taken penalty after Lampard was brought down Erik Lamela. The forward could have completed his hat-trick after just half an hour when David Silva was fouled by Younes Kaboul but Aguero saw his penalty denied by Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris.

Tottenham had a glorious chance to equalise when Martin Demichelis tripped Soldado but Hart guessed right and kept the Spaniard's spot kick out. Aguero was given another chance to net his hat-trick when Fazio fouled the striker to provide the game's fourth penalty, Fazio was sent off and Aguero duly punished Spurs, successfully beating Lloris on his right hand side.

Aguero rounded off the victory after beating the offside trap and angling a shot beyond the diving French keeper.

City will now travel to Moscow to face CSKA in the Champions League on Tuesday (October 21st) before tackling a tough away trip at West Ham on Saturday lunchtime. They will be hoping for neighbours Manchester United to do them a favour as the Red Devils meet Chelsea at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Manchester City look to close gap at the top against Tottenham

16 October, 2014

Manchester City return to Premier League action this weekend as they look to close the gap on leaders Chelsea.

City are currently five points adrift of Jose Mourinho's team but welcome a Tottenham Hotspur side which lost 6-0 on their last visit to the Etihad Stadium. The champions will be looking to build on a hard fought victory against Aston Villa prior to the international break which left them still within touching distance of Chelsea.

The Sky Blues were far from their best at Villa Park but managed to wear down the home side's resistance with late goals from Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero claiming a win at a ground where they have struggled in recent years. They will be weary of the Spurs offensive on Saturday but the Londoners head to Eastlands with a terrible record against City.

Spurs have lost on their last four visits to the Etihad and were thrashed both home and away by City in the previous campaign. The Sky Blues ran riot at home last November with Jesus Navas, Aguero and Alvaro Negredo dismantling Spurs 6-0, then managed by Andre Villas-Boas. A change at the helm did not improve Spurs' fortunes against City as they lost 5-1 to the Manchester side at White Hart Lane.

Now under the guidance of former Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino, Spurs will be keen to avoid a repeat of their past visits. For City and boss Manuel Pellegrini the early kick-off provides the perfect opportunity to narrow the five-point gap on Chelsea and a win would put the pressure on Mourinho's side who play at Crystal Palace later in the day.

Pellegrini will have been pleased to have seen all of his players return from international duty relatively. unscathed. Yaya Toure is a slight doubt for the match after returning late from the Ivory Coast's African Nations Cup qualifier against DR Congo which could see Frank Lampard continue to deputise. He will still be without long-term absentees Fernandinho and Samir Nasri who remain on the treatment table.

Lampard has been a revelation for Pellegrini's side following his loan move from New York City. The former Chelsea man scored a precious equaliser against the London side and then followed this up with two goals against Sheffield Wednesday in the Capital One Cup and another against Hull City in the Premier League.

While City fans would love to see another 6-0 thrashing, manager Pellegrini will no doubt settle for a 1-0 to put the pressure on Mourinho and his Chelsea side.

Manchester City stars prepare for international week

9 October, 2014

The Premier League and Champions League are taking a break this weekend to make way for international qualifiers.

No less than 15 Manchester City players will be in action over the coming days with many eyes focused on Wembley Stadium where England take on San Marino this evening (October 9th). City keeper Joe Hart is expected to start while midfielder James Milner will play a part during the Three Lions' second Euro 2016 qualifier.

England have started the qualifying campaign in pleasing fashion claiming a 2-0 victory against Switzerland in Basel. Billed as the hardest game of the group, England breezed to victory against an underwhelming Swiss side with Arsenal's Danny Welbeck grabbing two goals. Now attentions turn to home soil against the lowest ranked side in world football.

San Marino are placed joint 202nd in the FIFA World Rankings, on a par with Bhutan, and lost 8-0 when the two teams last met in Serravalle. Despite their lowly position England are not taking them for granted.

In the build-up to the game, Milner spoke of the positive team spirit in the England camp: "The talk around the England team wasn't great going into the Switzerland game and people saying what a difficult game it was, and that's when you need your team spirit to come through to go there and get a result and we did that and played very well."

After the San Marino game, England will fly to Tallinn where they face Estonia in the second October qualifier on Sunday (October 12th). Two wins will give the Three Lions a commanding position going into games against Slovenia and Lithuania.

It is not just Wembley where City's stars will be appearing in the coming. Captain Vincent Kompany and Jason Denayer, currently on loan at Celtic, will line up for Belgium against Andorra on Friday with Denayer potentially set for a first cap.

Aleksander Kolarov and Matija Nastasic are in the Serbian squad to face Armenia while new signings Bacary Sagna and Eliaquim Mangala are on duty for France against Portugal in a friendly.

Argentine trio Pablo Zabaleta, Sergio Aguero and Martin Demichelis will travel to China to face fellow South Americans Brazil in a friendly.

Elsewhere, Spain's David Silva will be facing both Slovakia and Luxembourg over the weekend, Yaya Toure is in action for Ivory Coast against Congo, Stevan Jovetic's Montenegro take on Liechtenstein and Edin Dzeko will be lining up for Bosnia-Herzegovina against Wales.

Jules Bianchi crash overshadows Japanese Grand Prix

6 October, 2014

Lewis Hamilton's third successive win was overshadowed by a serious accident involving Marussia's Jules Bianchi at the Japanese Grand Prix.

The French driver lost control on a bend, crashing into recovery vehicles which were attending an earlier accident. Bianchi suffered a "severe" head injury and was unconscious when he was taken to hospital. The Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) confirmed that Bianchi underwent surgery and remains in intensive care.

Bianchi's crash forced the race to be stopped early handing Hamilton his eighth win of the championship but it did not seem to matter under the circumstances. Drivers sent their thoughts and prayers to Bianchi.

Speaking after the race, Hamilton, who was awarded the race victory despite drivers only completing 44 laps, spoke of his concerns and hoped Bianchi pulled through: "To hear one of our colleagues is seriously injured is the main worry."

Drivers battled treacherous conditions in Suzuka as the approaching typhoon Phanfone descended on the race track. It was somewhat of a stuttering start with the safety car needing to be deployed for eight laps while the race was contested under a red flag for two laps. It was yet another race that revolved around the battle between Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

Starting in second behind his Mercedes teammate, Hamilton jostled with Rosberg throughout and was 2.2 seconds behind the German after their first pit stops. The Brit continued to apply the pressure on Rosberg and closed the gap to just one second on lap 24.

Hamilton was hot on the heels of Rosberg for another five laps before he made a decisive move to overtake his Mercedes teammate on lap 29 to take the lead. He did not look back and maintained a strong advantage before the race was red flagged on lap 44, by which time Hamilton had built up a formidable 16-second lead.

The win takes Hamilton ten points ahead of Rosberg with four races remaining. The German finished in second with Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel finishing in third ahead of fellow Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo and McLaren's Jenson Button.

Despite racking up an eighth win of the campaign and putting himself in pole position to win his second driver's championship, Hamilton described the win as an "anti-climax". The injury to Bianchi cast a shadow over the grand prix and there will be hope that the Frenchman can get back to racing as soon as possible.

Manchester City in Europe - a history

3 October, 2014

The 2014/15 season marks Manchester City's fourth consecutive year pitting their wits against Europe's elite in the Champions League. It has been a long road to reach this point and will have seemed like a far flung dream when playing Oldham Athletic on a wet, Tuesday night in late 1990s.

In recent years City have returned to European football's top table and welcomed the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich to the Etihad Stadium. The Champions League comes to Eastlands again this year so, in spirit of the occasion, here is our guide to Manchester City in Europe.

Seventies success

City's first foray into Europe was in 1968 when they entered the European Cup, rebranded as the Champions League in 1992, as English champions. It was short-lived however as they were knocked out at the first round by Turkish side Fenerbahce.

Until recently, that was City's only crack at Europe's top trophy and in the years in between they competed for the European Cup Winners' Cup, UEFA Cup and, at a later stage, the Europa League. Despite the disappointment of the 1968/69 European Cup campaign, City returned much stronger a year later.

Entering the 1969/70 European Cup Winners' Cup as FA Cup winners, City excelled. Comfortably dispatching of Athletic Bilbao, Lierse SK and Academica de Coimbra, the Manchester side faced Germany's Schalke 04 in the semi-final.

Going into the second leg, City had to overcome a 1-0 deficit after losing in the Ruhr. At a packed Maine Road, City blew away their German opponents with goals from Mike Doyle, Neil Young, Frannie Lee and Colin Bell giving City a 5-1 win. It set up a final with Polish side Gornik Zabrze.

City travelled to the Prater Stadium in Vienna well aware of the Poles' threat after Gornik had dispatched of Italian giants Roma in the semi-final. City took an early lead with Young once again putting the English side ahead before Lee scored a penalty just before half time.

City were made to sweat on their result when Stanislav Oslizlo pulled one back for Gornik but the Sky Blues held on to give them their first taste of European gold.

Young, Lee and co defended their title in 1970/71 and beat Gornik again in the quarter finals before being knocked out by Chelsea in the semis. City featured heavily in Europe through the rest of the 1970s, competing in the UEFA Cup for four seasons but after being knocked out by Borussia Monchengladbach in 1979 little did they know it would be over 20 years before they would compete in Europe again.

Return to Europe

City returned to European action after a 24-year absence when they gained entry into the UEFA Cup through the Fair Play award. The Sky Blues needed to navigate a qualifying round before entering the competition and were pitted against Welsh side Total Network Solutions.

After breezing through 7-0 on aggregate, City were drawn against Belgian side Lokeren who they dispatched 4-2 on aggregate. However, the 2003/04 European campaign was one to forget as they faced Polish side Groclin Dyskobolia.

Kevin Keegan's team headed to Poland after a 1-1 draw at the City of Manchester Stadium but despite boasting attacking threats such as Nicolas Anelka and Robbie Fowler they failed to score and went out on away goals.

Another stint in the wilderness followed before they returned in 2008/09, again as England's Fair Play representatives. Now under the tutelage of Mark Hughes, City navigated past EB Streymur, FC Midtjylland and Omonia Nicosia to reach the UEFA Cup group stages.

They advanced from the group and beat Danish opposition in the form of FC Copenhagen and Aalborg BK to reach a quarter final with Hamburg. Losing 3-1 at the Imtech Arena, City gave themselves too much to do in the return leg and despite winning 2-1 at home they went out 4-3 on aggregate.

By the time City were back in Europe, the UEFA Cup had been rebranded as the Europa League. This time under Roberto Mancini, City reached the last 16 before being dumped out by Dynamo Kiev. The return match will long be remembered for striker Mario Balotelli needlessly getting himself sent off.

Champions League debut

City finally realised their dream of playing Champions League football in 2011. Finishing third in the Premier League the previous season they were handed a tough group of Bayern Munich, Napoli and Villarreal. Defeats in Munich and Naples and a draw with the Italian side condemned City to another year of Europa League football, which they exited in the round of 16.

The away match in Munich will always be remembered for the spat between Mancini and striker Carlos Tevez. With his side 2-0 down, Mancini instructed Tevez to warm up but the Argentine forward refused sparking Mancini to state that Tevez would never play for him again. He did and City went on to win the Premier League title.

The following season was also not kind on City being pitted against Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Ajax. City finished bottom of the group with only two points as surprise package Dortmund stormed the group and were only beaten when they came up against Bayern in the Champions League final.

Last season saw City finally crack that Champions League group stage nut. Pitted once again against Bayern, the Sky Blues were thoroughly outplayed by the Germans in Manchester but home and away wins against Viktoria Plzen and CSKA Moscow effectively put City through. With a final group game against Bayern remaining it seemed destined that City would finish second.

Despite going 2-0 down against the German champions fought back to lead 3-2 and would have topped the group had they scored another, something which manager Manuel Pellegrini admitted he was not aware of at the time. It proved costly as they were drawn against Spanish giants Barcelona in the last 16 and went out 4-1 on aggregate.

This season looks to be a challenge again with City only gathering one point from two games but with games against CSKA Moscow to come once again they will be confident of qualifying from a group containing Bayern and Roma.

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