Football – City lead English struggles
Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini admits it will take a miracle for his side to reach the Champions League knockout stages after another damaging defeat on the road.
The Premier League champions continue to thrive domestically but are on the brink of exiting Europe at the first hurdle for the second successive season.
Wednesday’s 3-1 defeat by Dutch champions Ajax in Holland left Mancini’s men bottom of Group D, with just one point from three games.
The Italian manager shouldered the blame for the loss and accepted City’s Champions League hopes hang by a thread.
“It’s my fault because I prepared badly for this game,” said Mancini.
“There’s one team with seven points, one team with six and one with three. It will be a miracle.”
Mancini led City to the league title for the first time in 44 years last season, but will find himself under pressure if big-spending City bow out of the Champions League.
It will not get any easier for the Manchester club. City host Ajax on November 6 and Real Madrid on November 21, before finishing with a trip to Borussia Dortmund on December 4.
The champions are not the only English team struggling on the continent (you can check out odds from around Europe here, including the Norwegian sports betting odds). Arsenal and Chelsea fell to shock defeats this week, while Manchester United edged past Portuguese outfit Braga.
Chelsea, of course, stunned Barcelona and Bayern Munich on their way to lifting the Champions League last season, but it was a mediocre campaign for English clubs in Europe.
The two Manchester clubs failed to progress past the group stage in the Champions League and fared little better in the Europa League, while Arsenal fell in the round of 16.
Tottenham Hotspur, Birmingham City, Fulham and Stoke City, to a lesser extent, all flattered to deceive in the Europa League.
If the big four are to make an impact in this season’s Champions League, they will need to tighten up defensively. All of the teams have struggled to cope with the different threats posed by sides on the continent.
It is certainly not the end of the road for English sides in Europe’s premier competition. Manchester United have all but qualified for the last 16, with Arsenal also in a healthy position. Chelsea’s hopes rest in the balance, while City, as Mancini put it, need a miracle.
Back-to-back home victories are a must for City, who must now adopt a no-fear approach.