Why Don't Man City Seem To Care About The Champions League?


There's been a lot written about Manchester City's supposed apathy in the Champions League - not just this season, but every season since they crossed the velvet rope into the swanky big cup party, after years in the equivalent of a grimy pub function room.

Could it really be possible that a club of such transparent ambition, with a squad boasting so many serial winners, have bred a mentality that sees the Champions League as somehow...well, meh?

If that's true, it's a reflection of fan sentiment, according to Bleacher Report's City correspondent Rob Pollard. A lifelong blue, Pollard says City supporters have come to the defeatist conclusion that the Champions League is "unwinnable", based on their experiences since 2011. That's not the only reason they're don't care, however.

"The repeated let-downs go some way to explaining my indifference but it is not just that," wrote Pollard at his Typical City fan blog. "I am a Manchester City fan, after all, and I am used to seeing my team lose."

Pollard appears to be saying Champions League domination would be a departure too far from the downtrodden City identity so many fans still cling to. Are we to assume, therefore, that taking on billionaire owners, winning the Premier League and the FA Cup is just about OK, but once you start talking about being "the pride of all Europe" you're getting dangerously close to...well, being the red half of Manchester?

Pollard is one of many City fans still struggling with the club's new place in the world. 

In the below interview with Gary Neville last weekend, Noel Gallagher admitted he'd rather his beloved City won the Premier League than the Champions League every time. 

In a sense, they long for City's dark ages, to revel in the misery of it all.

In that sense, you might argue the Champions League is the perfect trip down memory lane - delivering as it has so much disappointment for City. But that's not it. When it comes to the Champions League it feels more like City fans are metaphorically doing the Poznan, waiting to be convinced, and for that to happen it may take a big knock-out victory against a big club, on a big European night.

If the Premier League is defined by "Aguerooooooooooooooo" for City fans, it's Carlos Tevez refusing to come off the bench that sums up their vision of the Champions League. Little wonder they haven't fallen in love with the competition yet.

City fans aren't the ones who put domestic honours above European ones. I'll wager plenty of Liverpool fans would have swapped 2005 for a Premier League title that season, and plenty of United fans still covet the league crown over UEFA's fabled promised land. If it's bragging rights in England you're after, a championship does it better than anything else can.

But let's forget the fans here for a moment. The vast majority of players at City have no connection whatsoever to underdog days gone by, or what it meant to stand on The Kippax knowing the team you love would probably lose.

What possible reason would global stars like Yaya Toure, Vincent Kompany or David Silva have for treating the Champions league like an unwelcome interruption? Aren't we talking about the most coveted trophy in European football here? Does history not beckon their egos to strive with every sinew to add such glory to their legacies?

Many read City's sloppy capitulation against CSKA Moscow last week as saying otherwise. That 2-2 result made it five Champions League games without a win for City, stretching back to their 3-2 victory against Bayern in December 2013, and it left Manuel Pellegrini's team in danger of going out at the group stage for the third time in four attempts.

The first two came with the 'group of death' caveat of course. City got Bayern, Napoli and Villarreal in 2011/12, and then Real Madrid, Dortmund and Ajax in 2012/13. It's Bayern again this season, but the other sides in Group E - Roma and CSKA - should not be terrifying propositions for the Premier League champions. However, City are currently on two points from three games, with a trip to Rome on matchday six already looking the decider for second place.

If Pellegrini's team are going to advance, they're going to have get their defence in order and display the kind of focus and drive we saw in Sunday's Manchester derby.

City have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last 10 Champions League games, conceding 18 goals along the way. By comparison, they've conceded just 10 in their last 10 Premier League games and shut out their opponents four times - most recently United on Sunday.

Lapses of concentration are costing them badly, like allowing Francesco Totti a free run of goal at the Etihad, or failing to clear a high ball at the death at the Allianz Arena, or failing to turn up altogether for the second half against CSKA.

That's the tangible evidence, but then there's the nagging sense that City players still need to be told they belong with Europe's elite. The swagger we've seen from them domestically has yet to translate, and neither has the authority we've come accustomed to seeing from their natural leaders. Is it possible for a team to have a winning and losing mentality at the same time? That's the suggestion here.

"Mental barriers appear to be as significant as the lack of quality on the field as they head into the latest trial on Wednesday against CSKA Moscow," wrote ESPNFC's Kevin Palmer of City's struggles in Europe.

Whatever the root of the problem, there's only one way to fix it and that's with City finding a way to win in the Champions League. If that happens, they might just win over the fans to the idea also.

If it doesn't, and another season in Europe passes them by, the apathy will only be encouraged. 

Manchester City are 1.28 to beat CSKA tonight. Bet now.