MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 07: The match balls are seen inside the stadium prior to the Group F match of the UEFA Champions League between Manchester City and FC Shakhtar Donetsk at Etihad Stadium on November 7, 2018 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
With the Champions League on the horizon, the time has come for Manchester City to deliver on European football’s biggest stage.
Manchester City completed the 2018/19 season in style. The Sky Blues became the first English team to win the domestic treble (or, according to manager Pep Guardiola, the domestic quadruple). Over the span of ten months, Manchester City won the FA Cup, the Carabao Cup, and the Community Shield. They also became the first team to retain the English Premier League title in over a decade. Based on their performances, many pundits and fans wondered if City would retain the title for a third consecutive season.
How things changed. As Manchester City prepare for their match against Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League’s Round of 16, few would have predicted City’s current situation. After winning the Community Shield at the start of the 2019/20 season, the Sky Blues lost Leroy Sané and Aymeric Laporte to injury. City’s inability to purchase a new center back during the transfer window forced Guardiola to experiment with Fernandinho and the newly acquired Rodri in the position, while also deploying out of favor John Stones. Unfortunately, the experiments did not work in the long term, as seen by City’s shocking defeat to Norwich City at Carrow Road. Following a series of disappointing league results against Newcastle United, Manchester United, and Wolverhampton Wanderers, it became evident that the Sky Blues would not retain the EPL title.
Manchester City did retain the Carabao Cup for a third consecutive season, but their performance in the final masked the issues have faced throughout the 2019/20 season. This became more evident in City’s lack-luster victory over Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup’s Fifth Round, where the Sky Blues were unable to convert a series of chances, and most recently, City’s loss against Arsenal in the FA Cup’s Semifinals.
What is more surprising is Manchester City’s season statistics, which do not tell the real story. At the end of the 2019/20 season, goalkeeper Ederson won the Golden Glove for keeping the most clean sheets in the league (16). The Sky Blues scored a remarkable 102 goals in the league alone, and they bolstered a remarkable goal differential of +67. Despite these statistics, however, Manchester City finished 18 points behind league winners Liverpool, and City’s lost to Arsenal in the FA Cup meant that the Sky Blues would miss out both the EPL and FA Cup trophies.
The story throughout most of the season has been the same. Manchester City are not clinical when it matters most, and they have had defensive lapses in crucial matches. Now, as the Sky Blues prepare for their vital match against Real Madrid, the Sky Blues must do all they can to ensure they progress to the competition’s next round. Under Guardiola’s tenure at City, his side have failed to progress beyond the competition’s Quarterfinal stage, and the Catalan will look to overcome this obstacle.
The task against Real Madrid will not be easy. Manchester City currently lead 2-1 on aggregate they scored two vital away goals in Madrid back in February. Since that period, however, City missed out on retaining the EPL and FA Cup trophies. Meanwhile, Real Madrid, who originally trained Barcelona by two points in La Liga, overcame this deficit. Los Blancos would pipe their rivals to win La Liga by five points. Given their respective conclusions to the 2019/20 season, Real Madrid should be favored in this upcoming match.
Simply put, it is crunch time for the Manchester City. Should they have any hope of salvaging the 2019/20 season, they must defeat Real Madrid and progress into the latter stages of the UEFA Champions League. Otherwise, should the Sky Blues be eliminated in the competition’s Round of 16, the 2019/20 season for Manchester City will be surely deemed as a failure.