If Roberto Mancini is true to his word he won’t be torn by any selection dilemmas when he sends his battle weary troops out into the glare of the Champions League for the last time this season.
The Manchester City boss, clearly vexed by his team’s early exit from the CL for a second successive season, has made know his desire to contest the Europa League, despite the pending derby with the Trafford half-breeds.
The all conquering Borussia Dortmund are already safely through to the knockout stage, unlike City, who could go from English champs to Euro chumps in the infamous Group of Death.
A win is a must if City are to finish third in the table and secure a consolation place in the much maligned Europa League. That said, not many teams of whatever calibre would turn their noses up at the prospect of contesting the latter stages of Europe’s ‘B’ trophy before packed stadia.
City’s CL fate was removed from their own hands when they inexplicably collapsed in Amsterdam 3-1 and then compounded it with home draws against Ajax and Real Madrid.
It’s a big ask to win in Germany, but never say never. It remains to be seen if Dortmund already confirmed as Group winners will be giving it their all.
The Germans have a lengthy injury list and may prefer to re-group and make up ground on Bayern Munich at the top of the Bundesliga. Key men Subotic, Kehl, Bender, Gotze , Blaszczykowski and Piszczek could all be absent.
City aren’t without their own casualties. David Silva and James Milner are both out with hamstring problems, Aleksander Kolarov limped out of the Everton game, while Gael Clichy, Micah Richards and Jack Rodwell are still not ready. Yaya Toure misses a rare game through suspension.
Coming off the back of a hard fought physical affair with Everton, Mancini denies this fixture is an irritating distraction, as City prepare for the top of the table tussle with United in the Manchester derby this weekend.
Does Mancini rest key personnel in readiness for the big push to the top of the English Premier League, or does he go for broke and a win in the imposing Westfalenstadion Stadium, capable of housing well over 80,000, but limited to nearer 60,000 for European fixtures?
There’s an emerging body of opinion which counsels that City would be better off making a swift Euro exit and ‘concentrating on the league…’
But lest we forget there’s the not insignificant matter of enhancing City’s stock in Europe by going as far as possible, amassing UEFA ‘co-efficient’ points with every round.
Atletico Madrid’s Europa League success last season pushed their ranking to ninth in the UEFA points table, despite not qualifying for the CL.
It would be a sweet irony if City were to return to the Amsterdam ArenA – scene of their worst ever night in the CL – to contest the Europa Final in May.
Victory in the Netherlands would have City’s wonderful away support as high as kites without even a whiff of Amsterdam’s all pervading ‘wacky backy’.
Mancini argues an extended Europa League campaign would help him keep his galaxy of stars happy with more games to share around. A run to the final would virtually guarantee City a second seeding in next year’s CL – for all the good it’s done them this time out
City could do worse than take inspiration from their German hosts. Dortmund finished rock bottom in Arsenal’s CL group last season. 12 months on and who would bet against a team who has plundered four points off Mourinho’s Real Madrid winning the whole kit and caboodle?
The Champions League has been a painful journey two years on the bounce for City, but the experience plus the acquisition of two or three top quality players such as Falcao, Isco and Busquets (it could well happen!) and it could be third time lucky in 2013.