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Manchester City have their work cut out to win Champions League group

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Manchester City went into the Champions League on an unbeaten run, with five wins from five and no goals conceded. They went into the group stage with a game against the Italian champions, who had a point to prove going into matchday one after defeat to Barcelona in last year's final.

The Italian champions were defensive and compact, and left manager Manuel Pellegrini with some things to think about when they got on the plane back to Turin with a 2-1 victory under their belt. 

City held the ball for most of the game, and they created enough chances to earn themselves a win. However, it was Juve who came away with the victory. The Citizens couldn't finish some of their chances and it was the absence of Sergio Aguero that was the most notable factor in the end. 

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Not So Clinical City

Raheem Sterling and David Silva both had chances to beat Gianluigi Buffon in the first half, but the Italian shot-stopper was too much to overcome. Sterling's hesitancy showed as he stuttered before slotting away with his right foot, and Silva was simply the victim of brilliant goalkeeping on the part of Buffon. 

City's midfielders are used to playing with Aguero at the front, which is almost like having a crutch as a footballer. Aguero is playing at a standard where if he gets the ball in a favorable position, he will score. If players like Nasri, Sterling and Silva don't feel like they can put a ball in the back of the net, they need only find the little Argentian and watch the magic.

 

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Because of his absence, they were forced to use Wilfried Bony as their player up front in their 4-2-3-1 formation. Wilfried is a physical target man, and a massive aerial threat. Aguero may be physical at times, but he is six inches shorter than the Ivorian. Aguero favors a ground pass for him to run onto rather than Bony, whose preferred pass is a cross he can put into the back of the net.

Bony was inaccurate with his shots and did not receive enough crosses to score a goal. This lack of a dominant striker meant that it was on the midfield to score the goals on the night, and that midfield failed to swing the match City's way.

Intangible Qualities

When teams like Manchester City come up a side of similar quality like they did in midweek, the games often come down to fine margins and finishes like Alvaro Morata's, which ended up winning Bianconeri the game. 

While Juventus have a core of newer, younger players in the shape of Pereyra and Pogba, they have players in their team that know the Champions League atmosphere and what it takes to control it. Mario Mandzukic, who scored Juve's opening goal, is exactly that type of player. 

City have veterans in their side and players like Yaya Toure and David Silva have played in the Champions League multiple times before. However, they are not the leaders Pellegrini's team need if they want to have that kind of resilience that Juventus showed against them. 

If they have the resolve to bounce back in future group stage fixtures, they need those team leaders that are willing to step up and take the game by the scruff of the neck. 

In fact, Vincent Kompany looked like he had done just that when he forced an own goal off Giorgio Chiellini to open the scoring. The Belgian center half was physical and aggressive in his defending and he didn't let players like Pogba and Mandzukic into the game for more than minutes at a time. 

The problem with the City team is the disconnect between Kompany's mentality and the other players. There was no team spirit that made an equalizer look possible after Juve took the lead in the second half. 

Looking Ahead to the Borussia-Park

Manchester City's next fixture is a journey to Mochengladbach to face BMG on September 30. Gladbach finished fourth in last year's Bundesliga and lost their first match against Sevilla at the Sanchez Pizjuan. 

The Citizens will win their next game, no doubt. Aguero will almost certainly be back to one hundred percent fitness and the City players will rebound from their defeat to West Ham next weekend. However, one win away against Mochengladbach will not suffice if they want to finish top of their group.

Juventus are currently in the pole position after taking three points from City with the reverse fixture still to come. Manuel Pellegrini will be thinking that a win either in Turin or Seville is necessary if they want to win this difficult group. Sevilla are a very strong side in Europe and are very hard to beat at home, so that game will be arguably the hardest game the Citizens have ahead of them.

My prediction is that Manchester City will finish second in their group behind Juventus, and only one or two points above Sevilla. That defeat to Juventus will prove devastating in the long run, and it could be made even worse because of the fact that the Premier League leaders could drop three more points away in Spain. Pellegrini will have to pull something out of the hat if they want a favorable draw in the round of sixteen.

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Topics:
UEFA Champions League
Manchester City
Football

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