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Can Pep Guardiola finally end Manchester City’s quest for the Champions League?

With the arrival of Pep Guardiola, Manchester City have made a massive statement; they are finally genuine contenders for the Champions League trophy. The Eastlands club has been amongst the top teams in the English Premier League since the Abu Dhabi United Group took over in August 2008. The new owners have invested heavily in the squad, youth system and backroom staff. Former managers – Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini – have won a league title each, but the most prestigious European title has remained elusive. After struggling in Europe for all these years, the Chilean did take them to the semi-finals last season, but were unfortunate to lose against the dominant force of Real Madrid. The master tactician has been brought in to remedy that and bring home the coveted trophy.

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This year the team from East Manchester will be expected to lead the English contingent in Europe; Leicester and Tottenham are relatively raw at this level and the Gunners have been perennial underachievers! By bringing in Pep, City have certainly got an accomplished coach, with stellar achievements at Barcelona and Bayern Munich to back him up. He has won three consecutive league titles in Spain, along with the Champions League twice in 2008-09 and 2010-11; after moving to Germany, he also won the Bundesliga thrice successively. He is a fantastic man-manager, who always brings the best out of his players. The Catalan is also a highly innovative coach and has completely changed the face of modern football with his new style of training and match tactics. The Citizens will surely be upbeat about their chances in Europe.

Guardiola has some really exciting talent to work with. An in-form Sergio Aguero is almost impossible for defenders to deal with, and he has evidently taken it up a notch judging by his performances so far this season. He is arguably one of the best strikers in the world, and keeping him fit will be Pep’s number one priority for progress in the Champions League. An attacking midfield of Kevin de Bruyne, Nolito, Raheem Sterling and the elegant David Silva completes one of the strongest goal scoring units. Ilkay Gundogan, Yaya Toure and Fernando add steel and creativity to the midfield. John Stones, Nicolas Otamendi and the captain Vincent Kompany should make up a mean defence. With Joe Hart having fallen out of favour, the position of the goalkeeper remains a concern, but we can expect a top ball-playing goalkeeper coming in soon at the Etihad Stadium. This squad is undeniably one of the best in England; however, whether they are able to stand up against the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Juventus and Paris-St Germain remains to be seen. The European bigwigs have also strengthened heavily over the summer, and, on paper, are much stronger man-to-man when compared with City.

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Pep Guardiola might have to adjust his tactics, playing style and training methods to adapt to a new league. Unlike La Liga and the Bundesliga, the Premier League tends to be a tougher challenge for new managers, with almost six to seven teams vying for the top four positions this year. Concentrating on the league and two English cups, along with competing in Europe is not an easy task. The last time an English team won the Champions League and finished in the top four of the league was in 2007-08, when the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson guided Manchester United to the double. Also, the lack of a winter break in England means a much more intensive schedule. Getting accustomed to the English system would take some time, even for a seasoned manager like Guardiola, and giving importance to one over the other could prove to be disastrous!

Manchester City brought in Txiki Begiristain as the director of football in 2012, and have now signed Pep Guardiola on a 3-year contract; the duo were instrumental in Barcelona’s success from 2008 to 2010. It is likely that they will need time to build a squad that suits Pep’s style of play and replicate what they achieved at Camp Nou. Besides, the Sky Blues are sure to have noticed that even though he reached the Champions League semi-finals thrice with Bayern, he has failed to go all the way since 2011. The Citizens have desired the top European trophy for far too long; it will be interesting to see whether Sheikh Mansour has the patience to give the Spanish manager the time that he requires!

Article written by Atish Kulkarni

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