On Thursday afternoon the draw for the group stages of the Champions League was made.
Manchester City, who have failed to get out of their group in both seasons that they have been in the Champions League, were drawn in Group D along with European Champions Bayern Munich, CSKA Moscow and Victoria Plzen.
Here we have a look at what Manchester City will expect to come up against during their attempt to finally break into the knock-out stages.
Well, Bayern are currently the European Champions and in many eyes they are firm favourites to retain their title again this year, so it’s already a tough start for City.
Bayern are now under the management of Pep Guardiola, who already in his short career as a manager has won the Champions League twice during his time in the dug-out at Barcelona, so he will be determined to bring home Bayern’s sixth European Cup this season.
Manchester City manager won’t be able to look at this Bayern side and pick out one outstanding star player from it as with the likes Manuel Neuer, Arjen Robben, Philipp Lahm, Franck Ribery, Mario Mandzukic – and new signings Thiago Alcantara and Mario Goetze – they are a squad full of super stars.
City and Munich have already met before in the group stages during City’s first campaign in 2012/2012. In Munich, a Bayern side inspired by two goals from Mario Gomez cruised their way to a comfortable victory, but City delivered a blow of revenge when they beat Bayern 2-0 at the Etihad thanks to goals from David Silva and Yaya Toure.
Manchester City knows exactly what Bayern are about: power, pace and solid defence. But if City truly want to make their way out of the group they will have to make sure they pick up maximum points against CSKA and Plzen as draws and victories against Bayern Munich are hard to come by.
The Russian side aren’t short of experience when it comes to the Champions League – this is their eleventh time in the competition.
Currently Champions of Russia and already sitting pretty at the top of the table this season, CSKA will be entering the competition with a suitcase full of confidence.
Away games in Russia are hostile affairs and will never be considered an easy task, no matter who you are, so City will need to go all out and make sure to get their name on the score-sheet as soon as possible when they kick off in the Luzhniki Stadium.
Manager Leonid Slustsky has plenty of talented players at his disposal, but the one City will need to keep an eye on is Alan Dzagoev. The Belsan-born forward is still only 23 years-old, but since he has been a first team regular since only 18, it feels as if he has been around forever already.
If City want to cancel CSKA out they will need to make sure this man doesn’t get a chance to create – and they will need to make sure they don’t give away silly free-kicks around the area as this man is a master when it comes to set pieces.
Yes, Plzen may have been in the fourth pot, but Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini will have to be wary of this side when he travels to the Czech Republic.
Plzen saw off a challenge from Slovenian side Maribor to book their place in the group stage, but it was their impressive performances in the Europa League last year where they finished top of their group ahead of Atletico Madrid and where they thrashed Italian side Napoli 5-0 on aggregate in the knock-out rounds that will remind Pellegrini of what he is up against.
This is two times Czech Champions Plzen’s second time in the Champions League.
They currently sit joint top of the Czech league at the minute and will be hoping to continue their early season form into the Champions League intending to cause one of the greatest group upsets ever if they make it out of this one.
Their stadium, Struncovy Sady, has a small capacity of just fewer than 12,000 seats, but their fans will be backing them all the way when big guns like City and Munich arrive.
Manchester City have been waiting for a bit of luck in the Champions League group stage draw, and although this isn’t by any means a favourable draw, it is one that they will see themselves having a good chance of breaking out of.