Man City star Bernardo Silva has declared that his team are desperate to win the Champions League for the first time this season. The club has benefited from enormous levels of investment since Sheikh Mansour’s takeover in 2008 and it has led to a bulging trophy cabinet. However, European glory has always eluded Man City and the players are now hell-bent on ending the drought.
Man City have won back-to-back Premier League titles after amassing the highest points tallies in the history of the division. However, this time around they trail runaway league leaders Liverpool by a seemingly insurmountable margin after suffering a number of shock defeats. That has led the squad to shift their priorities and make the Champions League their number one priority in the second half of the campaign.
“There’s still a lot to play for this season,” said Silva, who has emerged as one of the finest attacking midfielders in the Premier League since his move from Monaco in 2017. “The Premier League now is very difficult. We want the Champions League, there’s no doubt about that. It’s a very tough competition and it’s very difficult. We play now against Real Madrid, who are one of the toughest opponents that we could face in this competition, but it’s a goal, not only for the club but for all the players personally.”
A Showdown at the Bernabeu
Real Madrid won the Champions League three years in a row between 2016 and 2018, cementing their status as the most successful team in the history of the competition. They suffered a surprise defeat against Ajax last season after selling star player Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus, but they have now brought Zinedine Zidane – the architect of those three triumphs – back to the club and they broke a world record by investing more than €250 million on the squad in the summer.
Yet Man City are the heavy favourites to progress to the last 16 at Real Madrid’s expensive in the Champions League odds offered by top sports betting sites listed at Sportsbook Review. Pep Guardiola’s men are the outright favourites to go to the Bernebeu and win the first leg, and they are the overwhelming favourites to qualify for the quarter-finals. They are also the favourites to win the tournament, ahead of defending champions Liverpool.
City lost to the Reds in the quarter-finals two seasons ago and they came unstuck against Tottenham at the same stage last year. However, the Premier League was always Guardiola’s stated priority. Now he has conceded that they are out of the title race, and it will be fascinating to see how they fare in Europe. It could lead to Guardiola resting key players for Premier League games in order to preserve their freshness for Champions League action, something he could not countenance when they were involved in an epic title battle with Liverpool last season.
Yet question marks still linger over their ability to get the job done in Europe. It is ironic that they have lost to domestic opposition for the last two seasons despite dominating the English game. Now they are no longer the dominant force in the Premier League – that honour must go to Jurgen Klopp’s ruthlessly efficient Liverpool side – and it will be challenging for them to go all the way in the Champions League.
What a wonderful year. Gratitude. 2019 🔚🔜 2020 🙏🏾 pic.twitter.com/oJL54vai2m
— Fernandinho (@fernandinho) December 31, 2019
The defence has struggled since Vincent Kompany was injured and Aymeric Laporte went down with a long-term injury. Fernandinho has been deployed at centre-back, but Man City miss his tenacity in midfield. They have already lost to Liverpool, Norwich and Man Utd this season, while Wolves beat them home and away. They remain phenomenal going forward, but their leakiness at the back must concern fans.
If they navigate a tricky two-legged tie with Real Madrid they will head into the quarter-finals full of confidence. Los Blancos do not look the same without Ronaldo, and the new players have not effectively gelled with the rest of the team yet, so City should prevail there. But they still face the prospect of being drawn against Liverpool in the latter stages of the tournament and that could be an issue. The Reds remain unbeaten in the Premier League this season and they are the European champions, so that would be a fiendishly difficult assignment for Man City. The likes of Barcelona and PSG also look dangerous, but on their day Guardiola’s men can blow anybody away, so it will be intriguing to see if Silva and co can achieve their goal.