Both Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini and club captain Vincent Kompany have spoken this week of their desire to win the Europa League after dropping out of the Champions League.
City were instantly installed as favourites for the competition after their departure from the Champions League was confirmed, and while a certain other Manchester club also joined them in the mix after their own humbling on the grandest stage in European football, who are the clubs Manicni and co must avoid in order to capture City’s first European trophy since 1970?
The competition looks as strong as it has been for some time, and GMF is here to round up all the major obstacles City face in their pursuit of silverware.
Perhaps one of the only sides alongside Malaga who can match City for financial clout in Europe ever since the arrival of the Qatar Investment Authority, Paris Saint-Germain have similar long-term ambitions to their English counterparts.
The capture of the outrageously talented Javier Pastore from the clutches of Chelsea for €42 million – making him the 7th highest transfer of all time - was a watershed moment in their new incarnation and the addition of Kevin Gameiro, Jeremy Menez and Blaise Matuidi as well as young talents Mamadou Sakho and Clement Chantome coming through makes them a dangerous outfit.
Currently second in Ligue 1 and still unsure of their place in the next round they are still facing the same teething problems that comes with new money, but more names on and off the field should arrive in January – including David Beckham and Rafa Benitez – to give them a helping hand, making them a dangerous opponent.
Can they beat City?: No, PSG are City 12 months ago
As the second favourties for the Europa League behind City, Atletico Madrid have plenty to live up to in the aftermath of Sergio Aguero and Diego Forlan’s departure over the summer.
Manager Gregorio Manzano may face the sack thanks to his side’s erratic league form but in Europe they have been supreme and put four past Udinese in the group stages to confirm their status as a real threat to Roberto Mancini’s men.
Radamel Falcao is an excellent striker who helped Porto and Andre Villas-Boas to the treble last season while he is ably supported by talented youngster Markel Susaeta from midfield. There is talent throughout Ateltico’s squad but they must find some semblance of form before they can match City.
Can they beat City: They have a chance, but their form is too erratic
Shorn of their brightest creative spark after Alexis Sanchez switched to Barcelona over the summer, Udinese have shown themselves more than capable of coping without the Chilean speed merchant as they continue to enjoy their best ever start to a Seria A season, picking up eight wins in 13 games to leave them just two points behind Juventus.
Couple his departure with Gokhan Inler joining Napoli over the summer and few would have expected Udinese to be where they are now.
Led by the talismanic Antonio Di Natale the Bianconeri managed to negotiate their way past Inter Milan last week to keep their title challenge on the right tracks, and certainly provided Arsenal with a stern test when they met in the Champions League qualifier earlier in the season.
With the best defensive record in Serie A – an accolade in itself – having shipped just 6 goals in their first 13 league matches, they would surely relish a chance to test themselves against the attacking might of Manchester City.
Can they beat City: Yes, they have the nous and experience
Valencia’s financial trouble in recent years has robbed them of some of the greatest talents to emerge from La Liga: David Villa and David Silva have left the Mastalla while Juan Mata followed the talented pair not long after.
They appear to be now on the verge of waking from their slumber led by the goal-scoring exploits of Roberto Soldado and the astute leadership of captain David Albelda, although the absence of injured on-loan starlet Sergio Canales is a real blow to their hopes.
Unai Emery’s men have secured a richly deserved draw against Barcelona, narrowly lost to Real Madrid in a game they deserved a lot more from and drew with Chelsea in the Champions League this season to show how dangerous they can be, and their 3rd place in La Liga is certainly not a false position.
Can they beat City: Maybe, They wilted against Chelsea in the second leg and may do so again.
Well, well, well what do we have hear? Fresh from only their third exit at the Champions League group stages in 17 years, Sir Alex Ferguson’s outfit join City in the Europa League after their disastrous 2-1 defeat against Basel on Wednesday.
After a start to the season which suggested the new era of swashbuckling talent would sweep aside all before them, it all appears to be falling apart at the seams for Ferguson as he copes with a growing injury list, wayward form, and increasing criticism from former players.
Whether they will focus any of their energy on the Europa League remains to be seen - Ferguson has already admitted he has little time for the Thursday-Sunday-Thursday routine that comes with playing in European football’s second-tier competition.
Once the dust has settled on their Champions League exit United may decide the Europa League is a worthwhile endeavour, and if City are their opponents in the latter stages, then they have all the motivation they need to treat the competition seriously.
Can they beat City: Yes, but not on current form.