Monday, December 16, 2013

Man City Report - Champions League & New York FC

It is hard to complain about Manchester City handing Bayern their first loss in the Champions League in their last 10 matches but apparently City manager Manuel Pellegrini did not understand the tie breaker rules for the Champions League group stages because when teams are level on points it is their head-to-head records not goal difference that decides the group winner.  Since Bayern won 3-1 at The Etihad that meant City had to score at least three goals on the road to jump Bayern to win the group.

Thomas Müller and Mario Götze scored twice in the first half to give Bayern a 2-0 lead and put them up 5-1 on aggregate.  City could have packed it in especially given that Pellegrini named an undermanned first team of  Joe Hart (GK), Micah Richards (RB), Martín Demichelis (CB), Joleon Lescott (CB), Aleksandar Kolarov (LB), Jesus Navas (W), Javi Garcia (CM), Fernandinho (CM), James Milner (W), David Silva (S), and Edin Dzeko (S) with Jack Rodwell (CM), Vincent Kompany (CB), Dedryck Boyata (CB), Sergio Agüero (S), and Costel Pantilimon (GK) on the bench to save their legs for their home match against league leaders Arsenal at The Etihad on the weekend.

In what is becoming a recurring nightmare for Richards, he was injured early in the first half with City down 2-0 so Pellegrini inserted Pablo Zabaleta in place of Richards.  City amazingly fought back with goals from Silva (28th minute), Kolarov (p.k. in 59th minute), and Milner (62nd minute) to take a 3-2 lead.  At that point City only needed to score one more goal to win the group stage, which it looks like Pellegrini understood when he inserted Negredo in place of Silva in the 73rd minute.  That understanding became murky when Pellegrini inserted Rodwell for Dzeko with a few minutes to play to "protect" a 3-2 lead not realizing that a 4-2 victory not a 5-2 victory is what City needed to win their group.  Pellegrini's and Milner's post-game commented confirmed they did not understand the Champions League group stage tie-breaker, which is inexcusable.

Sure City ended Bayern's 27-match undefeated run but they still finished second in the group.  If City would have won the group they could have been drawn against Bayer Leverkusen, Galatasaray, Milan, Olympiacos, Schalke, or Zenit St. Peterburg.  Since City did not win the group, they could have been drawn against Atlético Madrid, Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, Paris Saint-Germain, or Real Madrid.  Unfortunately as the graphic to the right shows, City was drawn against Barcelona so their odds of progression from the Round of 16 to the Round of 8 are low.
In other City related news, New York City FC has their first manager in place officially naming Jason Kreis as their manager despite the fact that New York City FC does not join the MLS until the 2015 season.  Kreis lead real Salt Lake to six consecutive playoff appearances including an MLS Cup in 2009 and a runner up this past season.  Kreis has long been rumored to be the first manager in the club's history so apparently Kreis will embark on a one-year apprenticeship of sorts under Pellegrini...pretty nice way to earn a living for a year right?

Besides the handling of the goal keeper situation and understand the rules of the Champions League group stage tie-breaker rules, I've generally agreed with how Pellegrini has handled City so far in his first season with the club.
City faces Leister in the Capital One Cup quarterfinal match tomorrow.  If City and United win, hopefully they will get opposite semi-final draws to set-up a Manchester Derby at Wembley for the Capital One Cup.  This weekend City heads on the road to face Fulham as the EPL kicks into high-gear.  I will have full coverage of all the action in this space over the next month.

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