Manchester City are no different from the overwhelming majority of teams in the world in that they would love to play like Barcelona and emulate the success of the Spanish giants.
Unlike most teams though, City have appointed the top executive team of Ferran Soriano and Txiki Bergiristain the duo that, along with President Joan Laporta, led Barca to their glorious recent history.
The Catalan connection is destined to take City to the ‘next level’ in their meteoric rise under the ownership of Sheikh Mansour. The big question is whether ex-Barca boss Pep Guardiola – presently on a self imposed sabbatical in New York – is destined to join to make it a Manchester-Barcelona 1-2-3?
Guardiola was the architect of Barcelona’s two most recent Champions League triumphs, achieved against a backdrop of dazzling displays of mesmerizingly beautiful football.
Contrast this with the somewhat underwhelming Champions League CV of City boss Roberto Mancini. The Italian who has transformed City’s on-field fortunes with the help of the Abu Dhabi off-field fortunes, has never been beyond the last eight of the prestigious competition as a manager.
The match up with Ajax at the Etihad Stadium could set the seal on a desperately disappointing CL campaign and see City fail to progress beyond the group stage for a second consecutive season.
For those who continually seek to undermine the City ‘Project’ it offers the opportunity to malign a Manchester City manager revered by the overwhelming majority of the fans.
City’s lamentable revolving door policy of dispensing with under achieving managers looked to have stopped after Mancini’s FA Cup success was followed with the Premier League title in May.
It’s preposterous to think Mancini may be at risk as his team sit just two points off the top of the domestic table and remain unbeaten in 16 games.
Conversely, it does seem credible to contemplate Guardiola replacing the popular Mancini when viewing Group D of the CL. City sit rock bottom on a solitary point after two defeats in Madrid and Amsterdam and a hardly deserved home draw with Dortmund.
If ever there was a ‘must win’ game this is it for City. If – and if is such a big word – they can start with three points, then who’s to say they can’t achieve mission improbable and grab wins at home to Real Madrid and away to Borussia Dortmund?
It’s a big ask, but who’d have bet on two goals in added time on May 13? City have the players for the big occasion. They have a winning mentality but alas, thus far, they haven’t enjoyed collective success in Europe.
The absence of playmaker extraordinaire David Silva is a massive and continuing blow. The loss of Micah Richards, Maicon, Jack Rodwell, James Milner and Joleon Lescott certainly doesn’t help.
But cometh the hour cometh the men and the likes of Samir Nasri, Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero, Mario Balotelli and Vincent Kompany have to step up and see off the Dutch threat. Here is a chance for City to move one step closer to redemption. They undoubtedly have the personnel to get the job done
City’s capitulation in the Amsterdam ArenA is still a source of puzzlement and exasperation. 1-0 up and looking comfortable they just turned off and allowed Ajax to look the part. The Amsterdamers are well off the pace in the Eredivisie – they’re nothing special – and it’s high time City hit top form.
A returning Zabaleta and a probable starting berth for Javi Garcia enable Mancini to freshen things up and finally show Europe the strength of the English champions.
Barcelona have long been regarded as the benchmark for European success. If City can possibly emulate half of their achievements it’d be a sky blue heaven and even sweeter still if Roberto Mancini remains at the helm.