After claiming their first Champions League title last season there is little doubt Manchester City will be the team to beat in Europe this term.
A team blessed with quality across the field and on the bench, manager Pep Guardiola knows his side have a target on their backs as the new European campaign gets underway.
City Delivered Under Pressure
Rated as the favorites for much of the tournament last season, City produced under the pressure of expectation to claim their first Champions League title. The Citizens are the firm favorites at +200 in the Champions League betting odds to go all the way once again this term and make it back-to-back successes on the continent. The pressure had been mounting on Guardiola and his squad after just falling short in the elite competition since his arrival in Manchester back in 2016. The Citizens reached their first Champions League final back in the 2020/21 campaign but suffered a heartbreaking 1-0 defeat at the hands of fellow English Premier League side Chelsea in Porto.
Iconic Spanish tactician Guardiola finally achieved what he was brought to the Etihad Stadium to do last season, with City earning what was a hard-fought 1-0 win over Serie A giants Inter Milan in the Champions League final. Spanish midfielder Rodri scored the decisive goal in that game to not only see City crowned European champions for the first time, but also complete a historic treble for the club. Winning the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League, this City side have already put their names into the history books.
Guardiola Keen To Play Down Expectations
While many will be expecting City to drive deep into the latter stages of the Champions League again this season, former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss Guardiola has been eager to play down the hype. City made a winning start to their 2023/24 campaign in Europe but had to battle from behind to earn a 3-1 win over Red Star Belgrade at the Etihad Stadium. After the full-time whistle, Guardiola admitted his side are “in trouble” with a number of first-team players all sidelined through injury. Kevin De Bruyne, Jack Grealish, Mateo Kovačić and John Stones were all missing for the clash against Belgrade. By talking up the high-profile absentees Guardiola, who himself was forced to undergo back surgery earlier this season, might well have been looking to temper expectations for his side over the coming weeks.
With the departures of İlkay Gündoğan and Riyad Mahrez over the summer, City has lost a wealth of quality and Champions League experience. Gündoğan and Mahrez played key roles in helping the Citizens secure the treble last season and will not be easily replaced. Kovačić was brought in to try and fill the void by Gündoğan but his injury has scuppered what looked to be a promising start for the Croatian star.
City know they can’t stand still after last season's success and Guardiola is eager to manage expectations as the Manchester City outfit goes in search of more domestic and European glory this term.