Manchester City must improve or face European failure again

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For two consecutive years, Manchester City have failed in the Champions League.

The Citizens, under then boss Roberto Mancini, have been unable to make it out of the group stages of Europe's elite competition.

In the 2011/12 season, City ended in third place behind Bayern Munich and Napoli. And, last season, the Citizens performed even worse in the competition failing to win a single group game and ending bottom.

Once again, City were dealt a tricky group with the likes of Real Madrid, Ajax and eventual finalists Borussia Dortmund standing in their way.

City's greatest fault last year was their defence as in addition to not winning a game, the Manchester outfit also failed to keep a clean sheet. In just six games, City conceded 11 goals. Compare that with winners of the group, Dortmund, who conceded just five goals in the same amount of games.

And, the defence was heavily criticised on a number of occasions throughout the campaign, none more so than when they hosted Dutch outfit Ajax. On that night, City gifted Siem de Jong a brace after some dismal marking from set pieces and the Blues swiftly headed out the European trapdoor just a matter of weeks later.

Ultimately their Italian manager paid the price for their European failings as he was axed towards the end of last season.

Now, in a new era, with Manuel Pellegrini at the helm, many expect City to improve in this year's Champions League. However, on the eve of the draw for the group stages, it could be argued that City's defensive issues still remain.

Just like last season, inspirational captain Vincent Kompany has been struggling with injury.

And, after the Sky Blues were defeated at Premier League new-boys Cardiff City this past weekend, their defensive problems were there for all to see.

Playing Javi Garcia as a makeshift centre-half didn't work too well as Fraizer Campbell caused him all sorts of problems. And, it wasn't just Garcia that had difficulty with the Cardiff forward. From set pieces the Etihad outfit seemed all over the place as Campbell found the net twice.

Pablo Zabaleta was caught flat footed and Joe Hart continues to struggle in goal. Their latest defeat certainly shows that a lot of work must be done by their Chilean manager to sort out his side's defence.

City are in desperate need of a defensive reshuffle and must improve by the time their Champions League campaign gets underway. If City again approach the group stages with the same defensive vulnerabilities, then they could once again fail to reach the knockout stages.

Pellegrini has been warned and must take action.

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