A few seconds were left to play, and there was still a chance to make this strange evening conciliatory from Manchester City’s point of view. Defender Aymeric Laporte had the ball at the centre line, he wanted to send Leroy Sané on the left side, but his pass slipped and was far too long. Sané slowed down before he had really started, and Laporte raised his hand apologetically. Shortly after, the game was over.
The last sequence was a perfect match for the whole event at the sports facility in the east of Manchester. The English champions operated at the beginning of the Champions League against Olympique Lyon slow, passionless and faulty. The 2-1 defeat was the logical consequence.
“The players are not perfect. Sometimes they have good days, sometimes bad,” said co-coach Mikel Arteta, who represented his suspended boss Pep Guardiola on the sidelines. His exile resulted from a dispute with the referee in the quarter-final out against FC Liverpool last season. Guardiola watched the game from a box, with a sliding cap on his head and an increasingly helpless expression on his face.
The title would be logical, but it is questionable whether it will succeed.
He is now in his third season as a coach in Manchester. In the first he had to get used to the club and the Premier League, in the second he made City perhaps the best team in the history of the league – thanks also to extensive investments – and scored the championship with a record for the most points and the most goals. It would be the logical next step if the team were to tackle the Champions League title in their third season. For many professionals and bookmakers, City is the most promising candidate to win the silver cup with the giant handles.
But it is questionable whether this can really succeed. Not necessarily because of the defeat against Lyon. Guardiola’s team has caught a feasible group, the other opponents are Hoffenheim and Donezk. There should be enough points to make it into the round of sixteen. There are a few other question marks behind City’s favourite position.
Unlike rivals like Real Madrid, Liverpool or FC Bayern, the club has no real history in the European Cup. City’s biggest success in the Champions League was their entry into the semi-finals two years ago. From the current squad, only two players have won the competition, namely substitute goalkeeper Claudio Bravo with Barcelona (no action) and substitute defender Danilo twice with Real Madrid. Only two City pros were already in a final on the field, namely Danilo – and Ilkay Gündogan, 2013 at Borussia Dortmunds 1:2 against FC Bayern, he even scored the goal for the BVB.
Ilkay Gündogan Honours
- Bundesliga: 2011–12
- DFB-Pokal: 2011–12
- DFL-Supercup: 2013
- UEFA Champions League runner-up: 2012–13
- Premier League: 2017–18
- EFL Cup: 2017–18
- FA Community Shield: 2018
- ESM Team of the Year: 2013
Empty rows of seats, miserable mood
City’s fans don’t seem to care much about the Champions League. This is evident from the fact that they whistle the UEFA anthem before every match in the competition. They feel disadvantaged and harassed by the European association, among other things with regard to financial fair play. Against Lyon, the disdain of the public was also visible on the stands. An astonishing number of places remained vacant. The dark blue of empty seat shells could be seen in many places, especially in the upper tier of the opposite tribune. The atmosphere was poor over long distances.
While Liverpool coach Jürgen Klopp had raved the evening before that the roaring atmosphere at Anfield Road had made an important contribution to the victory against Paris Saint-Germain, City’s pros had to motivate themselves against Lyon. At the final whistle, many spectators had already made their way home, although the match had been open until the end. Volt sports makes their players stay on loop because of its live betting and other promotions.
Guardiola’s recent history does not suggest that his side will win the Champions League this season either. His two successes as coach in the FC Barcelona competition go back a long time, to 2009 and 2011, and since then he has failed reliably. With FC Bayern, he was eliminated three times in the semi-finals, with Manchester City in his first season against AS Monaco in the round of 16 and in the quarter-finals against Liverpool in the past season.