Manchester City came back from 2-0 down to beat RB Leipzig 3-2 at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday evening but, on another night in the Champions League against any of the European big guns, the story could have been different. Particularly if this was in the knockout stages, the Blues could have found themselves in a very difficult position as a result of awful defending.
After a series of changes in the second half, the team rallied to secure a 3-2 victory in the end. But the game should serve as a timely warning for Pep Guardiola and the team. Such performances can be costly in the later stages of the competition.
Having already secured qualification to the knockout stages the focus will be on progressing through the rounds to defend the Champions League crown. City were impeccable last season on the way to an unprecedented treble. But with teams like Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Liverpool and even Barcelona looking to unseat them, it’s going to be as tough as ever to retain the title.
Fortunately, the likes of John Stones and Kevin De Bruyne should be back in action by the time the knockout stages resume next year. But the team cannot be sloppy, concede cheap goals and expect to secure comeback wins again and again. At the later stages and with more difficult opposition, it’s usually a different ball game.
So far against relatively weak opposition, City have kept just one clean sheet in the first five games. The team has gone into halftime break losing in two of the five matches.
Compared to last season when the opposition was even stronger, City kept four clean sheets in six group-stage matches. That showed a statement of intent from early on as the team was solid at the back while also being productive upfront.
Although no two seasons or matches are the same, the early signs are not looking too good. The team will need to tighten up at the back while maintaining a solid shape. It’s a necessity to retain its place as the team to beat in the competition.