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How to solve a Champions League problem?

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Alex Livesey

Not wanting to hijack what is an excellent comment threads from Tuesday night both on the match report and five thoughts (great to see plenty of new faces chiming in too) tackling the issue of City in the Champions League, specifically the accusations of apathy from the fans towards the competition.

This was sparked initially by Paul Scholes' comments ahead of the game (which sent the press box into somewhat of a tizz) and later on Rio Ferdinand's tweet. It is a shame that both were lumped together as as asinine as Ferdinand's comments were there were some genuine questions posed by Scholes, which got lost in the 'empty seats' narrative generated by Ferdinand.

There are already a couple of very good pieces online touching on this issue, one by Howard Hockin and one by Paul Wilson. A lot of reasons have been put forward: cost, FFP, the lack of interest in the group games to name but a few. There is undoubtedly an issue between fans and the competition, my own belief that there is a lack of resonance with the competition.

Look at the Premier League. City routinely sell out games and with the expansion plans there is already a 7,500 waiting list for season tickets. On the face of it then a visit by Stoke or West Ham for instance is more attractive than a European night. It shouldn't be forgotten that this is City's fourth season in the competition, put simply there hasn't been the opportunity to foster the kind of 'European nights' that Scholes referenced.

Hockin also put forward the argument that there is in effect no identity for City fans with the competition, citing that "we've had success thrust upon us that we thought would never be experienced and the success has been domestic and this still captivates us." This hasn't happened in the Champions League, and City again face a tough (but not impossible) task to qualify through the group stages. A return of one point from the first two games is a position City have become accustomed to.

City have been handed difficult group after difficult group, the one exception last year was when they cruised through with ease, and there feels like an anxiety at the European games with players and fans alike, that the club has yet to settle into the competition despite its domestic success, which in turn does not help generate that attraction.

Would though a genuine run deep in the competition help? The group games do not fire the imagination that derby or a visit from Chelsea attract, and the 'European nights' Scholes talks about invariably occur in the knockout rounds (think of those Liverpool-Chelsea battles under Benitez and Mourinho) and you can't escape the feeling that this is what City desperately need; a long run in the competition whereby top European names are dispatched along the way in memorable games. This would provide a real focal point for the club to rally around, generating confidence on the pitch and emotion off it.

As much as continued domestic success is required, Europe though is as important to the hierarchy for the clubs future. Tangible success, meaning semi-finals and finals, is required sooner rather than later. One point from six so far puts City in a spot but back to back games against CSKA provide an opportunity to turn things around and then a final two games against Bayern and Roma could have genuine meaning (a reprise of the Hamburg game from a few seasons ago, the nearest to a 'European night'?), which could be taken into the knock-out stages.

Wishful thinking it may be but could the low point of Tuesday night kick start a genuine relationship with the competition?