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UEFA ban the fuel to boost City's Euro bid


STANDING TALL: Riyad Mahrez and Kevin De Bruyne celebrate the Belgian’s winner at the Bernabeu. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire

STANDING TALL: Riyad Mahrez and Kevin De Bruyne celebrate the Belgian’s winner at the Bernabeu. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire

STANDING TALL: Riyad Mahrez and Kevin De Bruyne celebrate the Belgian’s winner at the Bernabeu. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire

UEFA wanted to punish Manchester City for their financial affairs with that two-year ban from the Champions League.

Instead, they have galvanised and inspired City as a club and as a team to the point where they can go on and win the Champions League this season.

City can win another trophy this weekend with the Carabao Cup and with the Premier League out of reach, this season is all about the Champions League.

They feel they need to make a point and the only way to do that is to go on and win the Champions League, which they can do as Liverpool are the only side I can see standing in their way in that competition this season.

I have read some of the stories coming out of City, how Pep Guardiola has been holding meetings with club staff and the players and the whole approach is 'us against the world' which he will now use to his advantage.

His message will be, no matter what the outside world thinks of us we know what we are - we are a good team of good footballers and there is no better way to prove that than to win the Champions League, stick one up to UEFA.

It was a strange match in Madrid on Wednesday night, and you think that if City had started the game with a stronger side than the XI they had out, they could have won the game by a lot more than one goal.

There was a change in personnel and formation but City still did really well against Real.

You can see that, despite their problems, they still have good players. No matter what has happened to them in the Premier League this season (and it's not been good), they are still a side capable of beating anyone.

The theory was out there around Europe that City had fallen back from where they were, they were a spent force, but the Real win proves that's not the case.

They will be massive favourites to go through in this tie and also to go on and win it.

The manager has a part to play in that, the way he built them back up as a team, got their spirits high again after a low spell. But players have to buy into that and they have done so.

When people write City off they seem to forget that they still have some truly world-class players in the squad and Guardiola is getting the best out of them as they put in the effort.

Liverpool's form this season has seen City shunted into the shade to a large extent, but there's no reason why City can't finish the season as European champions.

Even if Liverpool get through in their tie against Atletico Madrid, and there's no guarantee of that, I think they'd be wary of City.

Liverpool and City are the two teams to fear now. I can't see any of the continental teams doing well enough to beat them.

City have an important game to play this weekend, Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup, and even though Europe is their priority, they will be serious about winning the final on Sunday.

It's a cup final, it's Wembley, it's a trophy, you can't just back off from that and say you're happy to give that away.

City go in as favourites and I'd be very disappointed if they didn't triumph. They can use another trophy to keep up their tempo, do what they can in the Premier League but put all of that focus on the Champions League.

And it will be a tough afternoon for Villa, they won't let themselves be lulled into a false sense of security, thinking that City won't really bother as they are so focused on Europe, especially as City beat them 6-1 at Villa Park only a few weeks ago.

It could be as bad a beating as City gave Watford in the FA Cup final last season.

If City have that bit between their teeth and feel they are hard done by, every game is a chance for them to show their ability and that will be their approach on Sunday in the final.

City know the league is gone but to win a trophy this weekend would mean something.

Guardiola's men will also draw comfort from the fact that the other Premier League teams in the Champions League lost their games.

Spurs losing to Leipzig you could have expected since their league form has not been great, so Europe was possibly a distraction for Tottenham, and Liverpool just came up against a very strong side in their tie, while Chelsea were simply outclassed by Bayern Munich.

The City manager has been around the block in the Champions League, so have his players, and that counts for a lot in nights like Wednesday - you are away to Real Madrid and a goal down, how do you cope?

They didn't panic, they had a game plan, they drew on all their experience and that got them the win.

I think Pep Guardiola has also learned and realised what had gone wrong recently. Generally he goes into away games thinking his team is simply the best club side in the world and can play the way they want to, but they have been picked apart too often.

So he went to Madrid a bit more conservatively minded, more pragmatic, and got the win - he knows now you can't just smash teams.

That's vindication for him, a good move by a coach and they have done enough to go on and win it.