NOTE: ALL PREDICTIONS WERE MADE BEFORE THE DRAW FOR THE GROUP STAGES HAPPENED.
I questioned a selection of journalists and media figures on their expectations this season for the Blues in the Champions League. Here is what they said:
Iain Macintosh, Football writer for The New Paper and others: They’re never going to have to put up with a group as difficult as that one again, so I shouldn’t think they’ll have too many problems. Their coefficient won’t have improved significantly this year, but to land Bayern, Napoli and Villarreal (even if they did get relegated in the end) was desperately bad luck. QFs, for me, bowing out to Real Madrid.
Gabriele Marcotti, writer and pundit for The Times, Corriere dello Sport, ESPN and more: I’d expect the quarterfinals. Then, from there, anything can happen.
Ian Ladyman, Northern Football correspondent for the Daily Mail: I think City will qualify this time and perhaps exit at the quarter-final stage. The Champions League is a tough competition and it takes a few years to learn how to deal with it. Having said that, last season was peculiar because City got ten points in a tough group and still didn’t qualify. That doesn’t happen very often. This season I would be astonished if they didn’t reach the knock out stages.
Rob Dawson, Football writer covering Man City and Man United for the Manchester Evening News: City are always going to face a tough task in the Champions League until they graduate into the group of top seeds. It won’t be long until that happens but in the meantime they’re going to face difficult group games. Unfortunately, that’s life for an emerging super power. But I’d still expect City to qualify from their group whoever they draw and get through to the quarter-finals. I can’t see them winning it yet but I’d have said the same about Chelsea last season.
James Ducker, Northern Football Correspondent of The Times newspaper: I’d be surprised if they didn’t reach the knockout stages this season but I doubt they’ll win the thing.
Mike Keegan, Sports News Correspondent for the Manchester Evening News: Some would say that the experience of the first season will stand them in good stead. I don’t buy that. It certainly won’t do them any harm but there was a lot of CL experience at the club anyway. I think the fact that they have won the Premier League will lift a great weight off Mancini’s shoulders. That was his priority and we might see more attention focussed on Europe this time around. They were unfortunate not to advance beyond the group stage last season and I would be amazed if that happened again although I can’t see them winning it.
Daniel Taylor, Chief football writer for the Guardian and Observer: You should get an easier group and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t do better. Mancini was being clever when he said City were second, third of fourth favourites for the league, but I think he probably means it about the Champions League probably being out of reach. The minimum target though has to be to get out of the group.
Oliver Kay, Chief Football Correspondent for The Times newspaper: Much better. I thought in some ways they were unlucky last season. I firmly expect them to get through the group and, draw permitting, they should get to the quarter-finals. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see them in the top four, but the further they get in Europe, the more I expect it to impact on their league campaign. They’re not used to juggling those commitments and their squad is not actually all that big.
Alistair Mann, Match of the Day and CityTV commentator: I think this is the hardest thing to predict as a great deal depends on the draw for the group stages. My understanding is that City again will be faced with the toughest of groups as they haven’t been in the Champions League mix long enough to be in the top seeded pot. It means, like last year, that the equivalent of Bayern Munich and Napoli could once again be in City’s opening group. I think if City can get beyond a tough group stage they are capable of beating most teams in Europe over two legs.
Chris Cohen, Presenter and producer for Sky, ESPN and more: I was surprised they struggled so much last season in the Champions League. I’d like to think they’ll progress to the first knockout stage but I still think they lack the belief in Europe to really go further.. a lot of it depends on the draw as well of course. I could be (and usually am) wrong though.
Jamie Jackson, Manchester football correspondent for the Guardian and Observer: Quarter-finals.