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Manchester City face a major test of European credentials against Ajax

Roberto Mancini’s Manchester City side face a must-win Champions League clash against Ajax this evening.

For all the money spent and all the progress that has been made at Manchester City the team is struggling to get to grips with the Champions League.

City face Dutch champions Ajax at the Etihad Stadium tonight in Group D, knowing that nothing but a win will do in the clash.

Surprise

Manchester City’s 3-1 defeat in the Amsterdam Arena against Ajax was something of a surprise.

However it shouldn’t be, Ajax are a good team and it seemed that City underestimated Frank de Boer’s charges.

City were just not good enough on the night, just like they were not good enough to beat Dortmund at home, and were lucky to emerge from a draw from that encounter.

Flaw

Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini has always found the Champions League a mystery as a manager. When the City boss was in charge of Italian giants Inter it was a very similar story. His Inter side could dominate teams at home, but struggled in Europe’s elite competition.

The failure to win the Champions League eventually cost the Italian his job at Inter. City being knocked out at the group stage this season may not cost him his job yet, but it may well do further down the line.

There is already murmuring about Mancini’s future in Manchester and it seems that questions about his future are starting to wrangle with him.

Confusion

Roberto Mancini is a great believer in constantly evolving his team’s tactics. This has led to confusion in his defenders, as the Italian has decided to play with three centre-backs.

The likes of Juventus, Napoli and the Italy national team have enjoyed success with the season in recent times. However the City players haven’t adapted to the formation.

The change of formation at the Amsterdam Arena had a big effect on the home side gaining victory. Full-back Gael Clichy looked all at sea as a centre-back and it cost the English champions.

Even the usually assured Vincent Kompany has looked vulnerable this season, especially when Mancini has decided to operate with a three man backline.

Backwards

Manchester City should have moved forward to the next level this season. Instead the team has looked like they are going backwards. The summer recruits haven’t exactly looked great and City have failed to impress at home and abroad.

The likes of Scott Sinclair, Jack Rodwell and Javi Garcia are all decent players, but they are not the class of player City needed for the team to be a major force in the Champions League.

Draw

Manchester City’s only point of the group so far came in that lucky 1-1 draw with German champions Dortmund. City could quite easily have lost that clash to the vibrant German outfit.

Such has been City’s ineptitude this season I wouldn’t back against Ajax getting a draw at the Etihad Stadium. This would leave City with little to no hope of qualifying for the knockout stages.

City still have to face Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium in their next Champions League clash, before heading to face Dortmund in Germany in the last group encounter. The way City are playing at the moment I don’t think they would win either match.

Problems

City has some major injury problems ahead of the visit of the Dutch giants. City will be without defenders Micah Richards, Maicon and Joleon Lescott. Midfielders David Silva and Jack Rodwell will also both miss out.

Pressure

Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini has spent a lot of money assembling this squad, but it seems he is not capable of challenging the big guns in European competition. If as expected City fail to make the knockout stages of the Champions League the pressure will increase on Mancini.

When Mancini was appointed as Manchester City boss I stated that he was only ever going to be a caretaker manager at City. He has made me eat humble pie in some respects, but at the moment his City managerial career is hanging by a thread.

The City owners have given the Italian all the resources he needed to build a team capable of challenging for the big trophies. Unfortunately it seems that the Champions League is Mancini’s Achilles heel.

Failure to qualify for the Champions League may not see Mancini lose his job, but I’m sure it will raise questions about his ability to achieve the clubs goals.

A certain former-Barcelona boss is looking for a job in England. Although, he has declared that London is his preferred destination I wouldn’t be surprised to see Senor Guardiola showing up at the Etihad Stadium next summer.

Why do English champions struggle in the Champions League?

Tue 6 November, 2012
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