We are fast approaching the festive period of the season, where the games come thick and fast, and squad rotation is the crucial aspect that all managers must juggle with. But, with City trailing Liverpool by nine points, could it be time that Pep Guardiola put all his eggs in the Champions League basket?
The gap between City and Liverpool hasn’t looked like shortening over recent weeks, with the Reds calving out three points like champions do. It could be a matter that this is finally their time. However, it isn’t likely that Guardiola and his team are going to throw the white flag. Instead, they will continue to fight on as you would expect.
But, with the pile-up of fixtures due to take over the team over the next couple of months with the FA Cup starting in January, could City benefit in Europe by resting their star men on a frequent basis?
Season Hampered By Injuries
Already this campaign, injuries have had a big effect on City’s form. They lost Leroy Sane until the New Year before a ball was even kicked, and that was just the start of the trend. The luck that City have had over recent seasons of keeping their best players fit has alluded them so far this campaign.
It could be argued though that the biggest loss for the Citizens has been in defence. John Stones has recently returned after a long stretch of time on the side-lines, while Nicolas Otamendi and Aymeric Laporte remain on the treatment table. The latter of whom is the man that the Citizens are missing most.
Laporte was a leading light for City last season, and on his day there is no better defender in the league. Prior to his injury, City were unbeaten in their opening four league games and only conceded three goals. In the four games after he was ruled out until February, City lost to Norwich and Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Premier League.
His effect on the team is immeasurable, especially given that the Citizens lost Vincent Kompany over the summer. The squad’s depth is astounding, but it would seem that they are light in the defensive areas.
Prioritise One Competition
Should the injuries continue to mount, then the Citizens will need to prioritise one competition, and the one that they have the best chance of winning is the Champions League. City have faltered in this competition over recent seasons despite dominating domestically.
The worst part of all for City fans is that an English side has knocked them out in the previous two editions. First, it was Liverpool who throttled City into submission, while Spurs defeated City last season with the assistance of VAR in the closing seconds the only reason why Guardiola’s side didn’t progress.
It is unclear how much longer the Spaniard will stay at the club, but he has always stated that his dream would be to bring the Champions League trophy to the Etihad. It has been nearly nine years since Guardiola’s last success on the continent, but it would seem he has all the tools to amend that this season.
While he doesn’t have Lionel Messi, he does have the most complete team in world football. Kevin De Bruyne’s form this season has made him the standout player in the top-flight. Raheem Sterling continues to improve, with his lightning speed that would almost be able to compete against a horse in the Kentucky Derby races.
Sane will be back in the New Year, and if he returns in good form, then it is hard to see any side stopping the dominant City attack. Laporte will also be back around the same kind of time, and his influence on the backline will ensure that City remain among the favourites to win the Champions League this season.