Thursday 18 January 2018

City plot good start

Andy Hampson

Manchester City return to the Champions League this week determined to finally make their mark in Europe's elite competition.

Successive group-stage exits in the past two seasons proved damaging for former manager Roberto Mancini, who was replaced by Manuel Pellegrini in the summer.

Pellegrini boasts good Champions League pedigree having taken Malaga within moments of a semi-final place last season and previously reaching the last four with Villarreal. Pellegrini has the advantage of a much kinder draw than Mancini was handed in either of his two campaigns.

Facing champions Bayern Munich will obviously be a tough test but it will be disappointing if City fail to progress from a group that also includes Viktoria Plzen and CSKA Moscow.

The Group D campaign begins on Tuesday as City travel to the Czech Republic to face the minnows of Plzen. It comes early in a busy three-week period for City that also includes the visit of Bayern, tricky games against Manchester United and Everton.

"I think it is a big test for all the big clubs who are playing the Champions League or the Europa League," Pellegrini said. "We have seven games in 21 days before the international break in October – that is why we have the squad with 22 players because we have an important amount of games."

Plzen, the Czech champions, are making just their second appearance in the Champions League.

Sunday Independent

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