Tuesday 21 January 2020

European exit drives Mancini to chase two trophies in compensation

MANCHESTER City boss Roberto Mancini has responded to his side's Champions League exit by targeting at least two trophies this season.

City are still on course for a memorable season despite seeing their hopes in Europe's elite competition end at the group stage last night.

Most notably they hold a five-point lead at the top of the Barclays Premier League and they have a Carling Cup semi-final against Liverpool to come next month.

Mancini also believes his team can win the Europa League - in which they will now compete next year - while their FA Cup defence will begin against rivals Manchester United in just over four weeks' time.

Mancini said: "We are disappointed, that is normal.

"We wanted to go into the second stage and now we can do nothing.

"It is my opinion next year, that if we play Champions League, we will do better.

"I am sure we will improve, but it is important to finish well this year.

"When I say finish well this year, I mean to maybe win two trophies."

City had begun their maiden Champions League campaign with high hopes but found the going tough alongside Bayern Munich and Napoli in Group A.

They wrapped up their fixtures with a convincing 2-0 win over an under-strength Bayern at the Etihad Stadium but it proved meaningless as Napoli qualified for the last 16 at their expense.

Bayern had already won the group while the Italians knew they would follow them into the knockout stage by beating Villarreal, which they achieved also by a 2-0 scoreline.

City still claimed a creditable 10 points but defeats away to Bayern and Napoli, and a home draw with the Serie A side, ultimately cost them.

Mancini believes his players have learnt from the experience.

He said: "In the Champions League you know that every game is difficult.

"If you meet a team that is maybe not as strong as you, and if you don't play those games 100%, you concede goals.

"We can improve on this.

"I think we did well and I also think we were unlucky because in Naples we didn't deserve to lose.

"But this is football. You can play well but if you concede two goals you have to take more risks. In the Champions League you can't concede many goals, you must pay attention every game.

"You should arrive at the last game and it should depend on you - if you win you go through.

"We arrived in the last game depending on Naples and this is difficult."

City will now go into next week's draw for the last 32 of the Europa League alongside their neighbours United, who also went out of the Champions League last night.

Yet while this might be regarded as a humiliating experience for a club as accustomed to top-level success as United, Mancini does not feel it should be for City.

Last season's FA Cup win secured City's first trophy in 35 years and Mancini wants to make the most of every opportunity to collect more.

He said: "We are not United or Bayern Munich or Real Madrid.

"For us to win the Europa League is an important trophy. It is clear we wanted to win the Champions League but this is not possible.

"The Europa League is now an important trophy.

"The Barclays Premier League is the priority - and the Europa League, Carling Cup, FA Cup.

"I think if we are lucky and we don't have a lot of injuries in the future, we have a team that can play all competitions."

City's rapid and expensively-funded ascent through football's ranks to join the European elite has attracted criticism from around the continent.

Bayern chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Napoli president and Aurelio de Laurentiis both went on the offensive in the build-up to last night's final round of group fixtures.

Former Arsenal and Germany goalkeeper Jens Lehmann then joined in the sniping with an outspoken attack in his role as a TV pundit for the Bayern clash.

Lehmann said City play "very, very boring football", "make their opponents fall asleep" and that people "don't want to see" them in the Champions League.

Mancini responded kindly.

He said: "I don't know about this but I think we should respect every opinion.

"I remember him as a fantastic keeper in Italy, he was incredible."

City right-back Micah Richards is likely to miss Monday's Premier League trip to Chelsea with the calf injury that kept him out last night.

PA Media

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