Successes can be challenging to follow up on, as natural expectations are to progress when it comes to a football club. Manchester City and manager Pep Guardiola smashed several Premier League records last season on their way to the title, but now they must find a way to improve upon that impressive triumph.
The goal will be simple, and that is conquering the UEFA Champions League. The competition has truly separated itself from the others, and now domestic trophies do not seem to hold the same significance in regards to a club’s aspirations.
An excellent example can be found in Real Madrid’s victory last month, as Barcelona’s league and cup double appeared meaningless as Los Blancos captured their third consecutive Champions League crown.
Guardiola is in-control of a squad boasting incredible quality, and their dominant run evidenced that through the top flight. Manchester City earned more points (100), scored more goals (106) and won more games (32) than any other side in Premier League history, and now that must be replicated on the European stage.
Players like Kevin De Bruyne and Leroy Sane continue to evolve and improve, while Sergio Aguero and David Silva provide exceptional leadership. Raheem Sterling has played fantastically under the guidance of Guardiola, while defensive reinforcements such as Kyle Walker and Aymeric Laporte have solidified the back-line.
This is a team ready to compete, and the City Football Group have been building to this moment for several years.
Now or never
City captured two league titles during this decade prior to last season, as well as victories in the FA Cup and League Cup. Domestic success is not a new reality, but success in the Champions League will be.
There was plenty of optimism about making their way to a title after a semi-final appearance against Real Madrid in 2016, with only one goal making the difference on aggregate. However, disappointments followed in both of the next two campaigns.
A Round of 16 exit to Monaco and last term’s quarter-final defeat against Liverpool were certainly frustrating, and this is why City brought Guardiola on in the first place. His achievements at Barcelona were legendary, and the club want to see that take place now at the Etihad Stadium.
It speaks to the ambitions that are seen amongst Europe’s elite, and the focus is on continental domination. Real Madrid have emphasised this outlook for years, dating back to the competition’s beginnings as the European Cup in the 1950s.
Barcelona, Manchester United, Bayern Munich and many others share this same view, and the Champions League allows a group to enter a different level of the game in terms of exposure and prestige. City have spent a tremendous amount of money in recent years to make this happen, and they expect to see their ultimate reward. The next step is critical.
Just spending does not always work. Paris Saint-Germain have splashed the cash as well, and they have not found the promised land. However, it may be different for Guardiola’s team.
Manchester City enjoyed a historic run to Premier League glory last season. In 2018-19, they must find a way to achieve that same success in the Champions League.