Manchester City’s latest opportunity to prove they belong among the elite of European football arrives in the shape of a mouth-watering Europa League clash with Juventus on Thursday.
The big-spending English side, who splashed out in excess of 100 million pounds (117 million euros) on new players over the summer, held onto fourth place in the Premier League with a 1-0 defeat of Chelsea on Saturday.
It was the defending champions’ first loss of the new campaign and it has raised expectations that City can mount a sustained title challenge this season.
“We have now beaten Liverpool and Chelsea at home so it shows that we are developing as a unit,” said Ivorian midfielder Yaya Toure, a 24 million pounds acquisition from Barcelona.
“Now we have to show more consistency. We have a lot of injuries but we have a strong enough squad to keep pace with the top sides.”
The dream of City’s multi-billionaire owner Sheikh Mansour is to turn the under-achieving north-west club into one of Europe’s glamour sides — much as Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich has done with Chelsea.
Visiting teams do not come much more glamorous than Juventus, who have two European Cups and a record 27 Italian titles to their name.
A dismal campaign last season, which saw them finish seventh in Serie A, means they have had to forego a place in the Champions League, but City coach Roberto Mancini is in no doubt as to their pedigree.
“Juventus are traditionally one of the very top sides in Europe and are maybe the biggest name in this year’s Europa League,” said the former Inter Milan coach.
Juve have struggled for form in the early weeks of the season but a hat-trick from summer signing Milos Krasic secured a 4-2 win at home to Cagliari on Sunday, sending them up to ninth in the table.
Coach Luigi Delneri is still finding his feet following his switch from Sampdoria, and the Old Lady’s defensive frailties were exposed in the surprise 3-3 draw at home to Polish outsiders Lech Poznan in their first group game.
City kicked off with a 2-0 win at Red Bull Salzburg, giving them early control of Group A, but Juve right-back Marco Motta says it will take more than money to turn Mancini’s men into world beaters.
“City are proof of how big-name signings and big spending, almost 100 million euros if I’m not mistaken, is not enough to obtain great results,” Motta told Sky Italia.
“But it’s clear that they’re a rival who have all of our respect and we will have to be on guard.”
Liverpool, another team with a rich European pedigree, travel to Dutch outfit FC Utrecht in Group K.
Dirk Kuyt scored on his return from a shoulder injury in the Reds’ 2-2 draw at home to Sunderland on Saturday and the Netherlands international is in line to appear against the club with whom he began his professional career in 1998.
“It’s on my mind to play (Fernando) Torres, (Raul) Meireles and Kuyt on Thursday. I think they’re knitting together well,” said Liverpool coach Roy Hodgson.
Elsewhere, defending champions Atletico Madrid host Bayer Leverkusen in Group B, while 2009 champions Zenit Saint Petersburg tackle AEK Athens in Group G.
Gregorio Manzano will oversee his first game in charge of Sevilla when the Spanish side travel to in-form Borussia Dortmund in Group J, after he was drafted in to replace the sacked Antonio Alvarez on Monday.
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