Manchester City slumped to a surprise 2-1 defeat in the opening match of this season’s Champions League at home to Lyon. With the loss City set an unwanted record as the first English side to lose four straight matches in the competition.
It was one of the worst performances ever put forth by the Sky Blues in recent times. Under Pep Guardiola’s tutelage, the club has surprisingly been disappointing on the continent despite scintillating displays in the Premier League.
The real bad news in this is the fact that losing has a way of becoming a habit.
When Man City lost to Shakhtar Donetsk in the group stage of last season’s edition of the competition, not much was made of the loss as City had already qualified for the next round. A comfortable victory followed away against FC Basel in the Round of 32. But the team fell to another loss at the Etihad Stadium when the Swiss side visited for the return leg.
Since then, despite progressing to the quarter-final, the Sky Blues have not been able to win a single match. The team recorded a second and third consecutive loss when it suffered home and away defeats to Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. The manner of the losses to the Merseysiders was particularly painful. A 5-1 aggregate victory suggests a lack of resistance.
A 3-0 defeat at Anfield with City hardly mustering a shot on target in the entire game was a thorough beating. Not what you’d expect from a side managed by Guardiola. But despite the manager’s comments that the team will respond appropriately and qualify over two legs, it fell flat in the return leg losing again at home.
The fact that City have not been able to make the Etihad Stadium a fortress in European competitions is worrying. Anfield is famous for being a difficult place for a visiting team to get a result. Jurgen Klopp used that as a pivot to reach the UCL final last term. City fans must learn to raise the roof and be the proverbial “12th man” during games. But this is a topic for another day.
One would expect both manager and team to have learned their lessons from last season’s capitulation. Unfortunately, Wednesday’s result suggests otherwise. Yes, the manager watched the game from the stands due to his suspension, but as Atletico Madrid’s Diego Simeone has shown, that is no excuse.
The Argentine has watched from the stands as Los Roji Blancos have won game after game including beating Arsenal and Marseille in the Europa League. He also watched from afar as the players got their Champions League campaign up to a flying start with a 2-1 victory over Monaco in faraway France.
Mikel Arteta who stood in for Guardiola in the pre-match conference extolled the qualities of the players praising the group for being hungry, committed, disciplined and the best in the world.
Unfortunately for him, they hardly showed such qualities when they took to the field of play. For the most part, they showed no hunger to win the game, they lacked discipline on the ball and were poor on the night compared to their usual high standards.
Thankfully, this performance was an exception rather than the norm. But the loss should serve as a wake up call.
On paper, this loss is not catastrophic as the team is capable of beating both Shakhtar Donetsk and Hoffeinham home and away. Defeating Lyon in the return leg is also doable. But that’s all on paper. The reality is anything can happen, like we saw in the opening match.
What that means is that City cannot take things for granted. The team needs to approach every game with all the seriousness it deserves. Errors need to be brought to the barest minimum. The players need to up their game and give the very best for the cause.
City remain favorites to win the competition this season alongside some other top sides like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Liverpool,Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain. Apart from the French giants that failed to secure a win on match day one, all other sides started with wins. It sets the tone for what to expect.
In any event, with all the talent at our disposal, we should not be losing at home to a French side content just to make the top four in Ligue 1 as PSG’s dominance remains unchallenged. It sends the wrong message about our readiness to rub shoulders with the crème de la crème of European football.