Manuel Pellegrini’s Manchester City bounced back in style with a victory against Borussia Monchengladbach in the final group D game of this season’s UEFA Champions League. Their victory and Sevilla’s 1-0 win against Juventus on matchday 6, have helped City qualify for the R-16 stage of the competition as group D winners. This is the first time City have won their Champions League group and, as the group winners, could draw one of the following six teams in the first knockout stage of the competition: Paris Saint-Germain (France), Roma (Italy), Gent (Belgium), PSV Eindhoven (Netherlands), Dynamo Kyiv (Ukraine) and Benfica (Portugal).
This victory is important for City in their bid to make progress in the Champions League by at least reaching the quarter-finals of the competition, having lost to Barcelona in the R-16 stage in the last couple of seasons. Even from this campaign’s perspective, they needed such a win – a come from behind victory – to garner confidence and prove to themselves that they are capable of such wins. Last weekend’s 2-0 defeat against Stoke City would surely have dented their confidence, as it was a complete no-show from Pellegrini’s side that has looked a little stretched in recent weeks due to injuries to the core of their squad.
Though City have reason to rejoice following their 4-2 victory against Monchengladbach, here is why Pellegrini’s Manchester City need to keep their feet firmly on the ground and focus.
Pellegrini’s Manchester City cannot afford to get complacent
The 2013-14 English champions slipped to third place on the Barclays Premier League table as a result of their defeat, fourth in the league this season, to Stoke last weekend. With 29 points from 15 games, City are three points behind league leaders Leicester City and a point behind second-placed Arsenal.
From the Cityzens’ point-of-view, they have the potential to finish this calendar year as the Premier League leaders. They have yet to face the Gunners and the Foxes in the first round of Premier League matches. And depending on what they achieve in those games, City can reclaim top spot on the 29th of December, when they play Claudio Ranieri’s side at the King Power Stadium.
City have not played well during the last month. Since the 1-3 victory against Sevilla on matchday 4 of the Champions League, City’s form has dipped considerably and will now take something special from Pellegrini’s side, to rediscover it. Their league form will be the one of utmost concern to the Chilean manager, with City having won just 1 of their last four Premier League games. They have won one, drawn one and suffered two morale-denting defeats against Liverpool and the Potters.
Pellegrini’s City are still involved in all four competitions, and the packed fixture list could take its toll on what is already a stretched City squad. Having qualified for the semifinals of the Capital One Cup and drawn Everton, City might have to play a whopping 12 games between now and the end of January 2016. That is, if you include the third and fourth round FA Cup ties as well, with City already drawn with Norwich City in the third round.
Though the competitive nature of the ongoing Premier League season has worked in City’s favour, things can change really quickly if they do not find a way to turn around their league form. The significance of the upcoming league fixtures against Swansea City (home), Arsenal (away), Sunderland (home) and Leicester (away) just cannot be stressed enough. And Pellegrini knows more than anyone else, that City qualifying for the R-16 stage of the Champions League means nothing for the next couple of months. That is the reason why they simply cannot afford to get complacent and ought to find a way to turn around their league form.
Pellegrini needs to stick with the players who are in-form for City at the moment and not make too many changes from game to game. That means the likes of Joe Hart, as City’s No.1 goalkeeper, Nicolas Otamendi, Aleksandar Kolarov, Fernandinho and Kevin de Bruyne, at the very least, have to feature in every game. There is no point putting out a different XI in each game, doing which has the potential to hinder City. City’s fabulous squad is stretched, indeed, with Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero injured along with the likes of Pablo Zabaleta and Fernando, who are crucial players as well, in the City roster. But if City are to turn around their league form, the onus is on Pellegrini to try his utmost and play with the aforementioned quintet in every game. That is City’s best chance of rediscovering their stuttering league campaign.