After conquering the great Real Madrid to reach the Champions League quarter final, Manchester City can begin to dream. Facing Lyon in a one-legged tie on Saturday seems fairly straight-forward. The Blues are the clear favorites to progress to the next round. But that is how they were in two of the last three editions of the competition.
Yet, under Guardiola their dreams have been cut short in the last three years. Monaco eliminated the team in the last 16 in 2017. Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur broke the hearts of City faithful worldwide in the last two seasons.
City’s best performance in the competition so far was reaching the 2016 semi-finals under Manuel Pellegrini.
Amidst concerns of a repeat of such in the last round against Real Madrid, Gabriel Jesus emerged as the unlikely hero. Questioned about City’s chances to win the trophy and whether there are still lingering concerns about previous failures heading into the latter stages of the competition, the Brazilian stated that the team has learnt the necessary lessons from the pains of the last few seasons.
“We have to dream,” Jesus told the media. “I’m a dreamer and can picture myself with the trophy on my hands.
“But I know the reality is different, we have to work, to show our dedication. To win is the most important thing.”
“As a group, we have matured from being knocked out of the previous Champions League editions,” he continued.
“We’ve learned to suffer.”
The team has learned the importance of maintaining leads and shutting up the back. Conceding so many goals at crucial times has been a real weakness in the last few campaigns.
That has led to catastrophic results and painful memories. The disappointments have been as many as they have been epic. Some of them have been particularly painful for the fact that they were rather unexpected.
Fortunately, every season presents a fresh opportunity to make things right.
Getting knocked out at the semi-final stage by Real Madrid in 2016 was understandable. The Spanish giants are the kings of the competition and have enormous experience as a result. They also usually parade some of the best players in the world. Cristiano Ronaldo was on their books at the time and in top form. It’s a huge factor in the scheme of things.
But then, what about Monaco in 2017?
Agreed, the French side was a force to be reckoned with in the 2016/17 season. Boasting of a very talented team made up of players like Kylian Mbappe, Fabinho and our very own duo of Bernardo Silva and Benjamin Mendy among others, the team beat Paris Saint-Germain to the Ligue 1 title in stunning fashion.
But Manchester City was clearly the better of the two on paper and was tipped to progress when the two sides squared up in the last 16. The Blues took a 5-3 lead to the return leg at the Principality only to suffer a 3-1 defeat and be dumped out of the competition on away goals rule.
The collapse was inexcusable.
City, despite being the better side, was let down by a porous defence as the fixture ended 6-6 on aggregate.
Losing home and away to Liverpool in the quarter final the following year was as painful. You could say Liverpool are quite experienced in Europe and so knocking City out of a European competition should not come as a surprise.
The Anfield side has also been infused with tremendous quality in the last few years. Plus the fact that the manager has had the luxury of time to build a strong team that can challenge for trophies both domestically and on the continent. Those are important considerations. But they still don’t justify a 5-1 aggregate score. Not against such a good team coached by one of the best managers in the history of the game.
Last season was the mother of all disappointments.
How on earth does a team like Manchester City get booted out of Europe by Tottenham? Liverpool made light work of the Lillywhites in the final to drive home the point.
It’s good to hear from Jesus that the team has learned from these bitter experiences. The fact is despite beating Madrid, the job is still not done. Bigger obstacles lie ahead. First of all, Lyon shouldn’t be taken lightly. Ask Juventus. Moreover, in two previous meetings City have not been able to defeat the French side.
Every game must be approached with the same seriousness Guardiola gave to Zinedine Zidane’s side. Be it Lyon, Barcelona or Bayern Munich in the semis and whoever the team will face in the final, hopefully.