Date: 10th September 2013 at 6:24pm
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VMC’s Lorna underlines the growing belief around town that City can make great strides in Europe this season…

We may have reigning European Champions and undisputed German football overlords Bayern Munich to contend with but I get the feeling that City’s group, at the third time of asking is a manageable one…finally!

So The Blues face Bayern, CSKA Moscow and Viktoria Plzen in a challenging Champions League Group D. The campaign kicks off against Plzen next week. The Czech Republic champions, who have claimed the Cambrinus Liga twice in the past three years and thumped Napoli home and away in Europe in the last campaign will be no pushovers, but at least we have avoided the group of death at last.

New City manager Manuel Pellegrini has excelled in this competition throughout his career and there is no reason why we cannot give Bayern and co a run for their money whilst playing attractive football into the bargain.

I feel confident about the group draw this time mainly down to the fact that we have The Engineer at the helm and I hold great belief that he can finally guide us through to the knock-out stages. Under Roberto Mancini, we were desperately unlucky in our debut campaign, but last season developed into a nightmare in Europe to say the least.

His Highness Sheikh Mansour has targeted Champions League success for some time. Success at this level would be seen as setting the seal on the transformation of a club that was not not so many moons ago languishing in English football’s third tier. It’s about time our boys showed their worth and fought like hell to repay Sheikh Mansour and all of our fans for the dedication we have shown and aim to get this competition won.

Flash back to Carlos Tévez’s notorious ‘I’m not warming up again’ scenario in Bavaria two seasons ago. All through that football match City showed how little we knew about the Champions League…that coupled with the fact that a year later we got an even tougher draw has made life hard for us to get a foothold at the top table.

Fast forward to the present day and his time around however, it seems the owners have gone all out for a manager who has experience at this level in an effort to show the world that City are more than capable of being Champions League contenders. We have a reasonable draw, even though we must negotiate Bayern again and I think we are a little better equipped to deal with the pressure. I also have great faith in new signings Negredo, Demichelis, Navas, Jovetić and Fernandinho who have all excelled in European competition despite lacking Premier League experience.

Pellegrini is a manager who knows how to steer his teams through Europe. He got Villareal through to the semi-finals in 2006 and nearly repeated the feat with Malaga last season, denied only by a matter of minutes and dodgy refereeing. So, to me his ‘street cred’ in Europe is a major asset. A major factor for sure in our owners head hunting of him.

Prestige and credibility are at the top of the list for Planet Blue and this time a failure to get out of this group would most certainly damage our club’s standing. The Champions League is factually a shop window to attract fans from all over the globe and to win it, or at least enjoy a good run in it, is good publicity worldwide to say the least.

Last season no British clubs made it through to the quarter finals and there is a feeling that the game in this part of world has lost ground on Europe. If City’s expensive squad fails to progress yet again, that feeling of losing ground would increase five fold in Manchester. BUT. This time around it could and should be different.

In optimistic conclusion, we have a new manager and a squad of players who should have at least learnt from past failures alongside newbies who have played at Champions League level for some years. Reaching the knock-out stages is well within our grasp.

In Pellegrini and City we trust.

UPCOMING DATES FOR YOUR FILOFAX:
all times East Manchester BST

Sa 14 Sep 15h00 Stoke City, Britannia Stadium PL
Tu 17 Sep 20h45 Viktoria Plzen, Doosan Arena, CLGS1
Su 22 Sep 16h00 The rags, The Etihad PL
Tu 24 Sep 19h45 Wigan Athletic, The Etihad LC3
Sa 28 Sep 15h00 Aston Villa, Villa Park PL
We 2 Oct Bayern Munich, The Etihad, CLGS2
Sa 05 Oct 12h45 Everton, The Etihad PL
Sa 19 Oct 17h30 West Ham, Upton Park PL
We 23 Oct 17h00 CSKA Moscow, Arena Khimki CLGS3
Su 27 Oct 16h00 Chelsea, Stamford Bridge PL
Sa 02 Nov 15h00 GMT Norwich City, The Etihad PL
Tu 05 Nov 17h00 GMT CSKA Moscow, The Etihad CLGS4
Su 10 Nov 1405 GMT Sunderland, Stadium of Light PL
Su 24 Nov 13h30 GMT Spurs, The Etihad PL
We 27 Nov 19h45 GMT Viktoria Plzen, The Etihad CLGS5
Tu 01 Dec 16h10 GMT Swansea City, The Etihad PL
We 4 Dec 20h00 GMT West Brom, The Hawthorns PL

 
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