Following Thursday’s Champions League draw, you will not be surprised to learn there’s one topic on everyone’s lips this morning…
Of course, it’s the fact City have been drawn against Barcelona once again and the fact Pep Guardiola will be returning to the Nou Camp has caused a stir in the footballing world.
Media outlets worldwide have been analysing the Blues’ chances of progression and overall, they’ve come to the conclusion City will progress – but must avoid pinning all focus on Barca and be wary of Borussia Monchengladbach.
Let’s start with Goal.com’s verdict… Their article reads: “You couldn't write the script. Well, actually, you could.
“Manchester City will meet Barcelona for the third time in four Champions League campaigns, but while Europe's top competition is starting to look a little samey, there is more than enough interest in this mammoth clash.
“The headline, of course, is Pep Guardiola's return to Camp Nou. The Catalan has asked for time to get City playing his kind of football but it will not be long before his methods are given the ultimate test: home and away games against the team he propelled to dominance across four spellbinding seasons.
“City have started the Guardiola era with four wins from four, and the coach will only expect their performances to improve now they have poached Barca's Bravo.
“By the time the two new rivals meet, we will know a lot more about City's prospects not only this season but for the remainder of Guardiola's reign.
“He predicted it won't be until the New Year that the Blues start to really take shape, but if they find themselves in the Champions League last-16 by that stage it will mean they have already made stellar progress.
“Like Guardiola's mandate to dominate English and European football, this will be no easy task. But it will certainly be entertaining.”
The Daily Mail’s Ian Ladyman writes: “Now, for only the second time, Guardiola must return to the club with which he will forever be unbreakably connected.
“It is his turn to try to break the spell of what Sir Alex Ferguson once described as the Barcelona 'carousel'. For Guardiola's new club Manchester City, Thursday's Champions League draw was not terribly kind.
“City have been here before and so has their new coach. Barcelona knocked out City in 2014 and 2015 while Guardiola took Bayern Munich to the Nou Camp 16 months ago only to lose 3-0 — Messi scoring twice — on the way to a comprehensive semi-final defeat.
“So both know how it feels and both would have wished for something else when the draw was made. The only consolation is that this is not yet knockout football. Barcelona are only one of three teams City must face in Group C.
“Guardiola's fate will not be decided by what his team does against Barca but in games against Borussia Monchengladbach, who finished 4th in the Bundesliga last season but were closer pointswise to the bottom than to the top, and a Celtic team that has just shipped four goals over two games against a team from Israel.”
The Manchester Evening News believes a place in the last four is ‘virtually guaranteed’.
According to James Robson, here’s why: “In his seven years competing in the Champions League Pep Guardiola has never failed to reach the semi-final at least.
“It is a proud record he will look to maintain, which explains why he identified the games against Steaua as the most important in Manchester City’s season.
“He takes the Champions League very seriously - and wasn’t prepared to take any risks in this two-legged qualifier.
“His fine record bodes well for City, who reached the last four for the first time last season before losing to Real Madrid.
“That experience should give them an edge in this year's competition - and Guardiola's knowhow might just prove the final ingredient.”
As for Eurosport’s thoughts, Ben Snowball scribes: “A statistic gathered minor momentum in the aftermath of the Champions League draw. Pep Guardiola, for all his talents as a manager, has a low-key record against Borussia Monchengladbach manager Andre Schubert: played two, won none.
“Two games is hardly the most convincing of sample size, but it does at least illustrate City’s task may be slightly trickier than anticipated. Barcelona will be the group’s runaway victors, barring disaster, while Celtic will undoubtedly turn their stadium into a menacing cauldron for the ‘southerner’ invasion. Expect ‘Group of Death’ to feature in pre-match montages.”
Speaking to BT Sport, Michael Owen believes the Blues have been dealt a ‘nightmare’ draw.
“We were looking at the list and thinking: ‘could it get any worse?’ and we don't think it could really,” he stated.
“That’s more so for Celtic I suppose. City were the most-fancied team to qualify anyway and they still should have enough quality.
“They have one of the best sets of players in Europe and one of the best managers in Europe. I still expect them to progress but they'll be counting their misfortune again.”
Owen Hargreaves echoed: “It's a massive challenge in Barcelona - probably the most famous team in the competition. Gladbach are quietly a very strong team as well and any visit to Celtic Park is tough.
“I still think City and Barca will progress but all of those games will be interesting and it is the most difficult group City could have had.”
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