Man City In Champions League: ‘Pep Guardiola’s Team Need Their Fans To Make Next Step

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Man City In Champions League: ‘Pep Guardiola’s Team Need Their Fans To Make Next Step

Some Manchester City fans might take their side’s latest progress into the knockout stages of the Champions League for granted, but the statistics show it is a special achievement in itself.

City’s draw with Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday meant they have made it out of the group stage for a seventh successive season – a run only Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Paris St-Germain can match.

Those are the kind of clubs that City are comparing themselves to now, and they are all measured by how they perform in Europe, as well as in their domestic leagues.

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The fact City have made it through to the last 16 so regularly is perhaps why some of their attendances in the competition have been disappointing, especially in the group stage, when as top seeds they do not often get glamorous opposition.

There was also a pretty flat atmosphere at Etihad Stadium against Shakhtar, which probably had a lot to do with the hosts’ poor performance – but sometimes players need some help to get themselves going on nights like that.

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They have cruised through their group again, so they have not required the kind of support that sees fans get involved and make the difference in matches.

But the further City go in this season’s Champions League, the more help they will need from the stands.

I am sure the crowds will go up as they make progress through each round, but City boss Pep Guardiola is also right to ask his side’s supporters to stop booing Uefa’s anthem before games, because I think they have made their point now.

As their games in Europe become more important, they also get harder – and the players will need every bit of drive and encouragement they can get.

I understand why they are booing, and it is a protest against the treatment they feel they and their club have had from European football’s governing body Uefa, not because they don’t want to win the competition.

I cannot speak for all of them, and won’t try to – but of course most City supporters want to be champions of Europe. They make that clear themselves during the big European games.

The atmosphere at the Etihad for the second leg of their quarter-final defeat by Tottenham last season was just electric, and one of the best I have ever experienced anywhere as a player or fan.

That’s what I count myself as these days. When you join the club aged 14 – like I did with City – and you go on to make your senior debut and play there for seven years, you become a Blue and so do your family – my young sons Ritz and Lazzar are fans too.

It is brilliant that the club is in such a strong position, whatever happens in the Premier League or Champions League this season.

Man City In Champions League: ‘Pep Guardiola’s Team Need Their Fans To Make Next Step

I understand why some City fans will always want to see them win the Premier League above anything else. The recent domestic success they have seen, particularly over the past couple of seasons, has been amazing and something no English club has managed before.

However, a first Champions League title would be so valuable because, globally, it would see City grow even more than they have done in the past decade.

You can see how far they have already come in a short space of time by looking at their recent record in Europe – as well as their impressive runs to the last 16, they are in elite company for being in the competition full stop.

City have been ever-presents for the past nine seasons, something only Barca, Real, Bayern and Benfica can match.

Now it is time to take the next step – and to do that they have to win it.

Winning the Premier League is a fantastic achievement, especially defending their title, but to go and beat everyone across Europe is something they have not done yet.

That was Guardiola’s remit when he took charge and I think the exposure it would bring would take the club and its fanbase to the next level.

Only time will tell if winning the Champions League would end the indifference some City fans seem to have towards the competition, but I would love to find out.

The most important question here is whether City can win it – and I definitely think they are ready.

Of course there are other strong contenders, but that is why it is so difficult to win it and another reason why you have to give City credit for consistently reaching the latter stages.

Can they go all the way this year and reach the final in Istanbul on 30 May?

I was asked that at the start of the season and my opinion has not changed: they or Liverpool will go extremely close, even if they don’t lift the trophy.

Why City? Well, I know they have had problems at the back in the first few months of the season, but by the time the Champions League resumes in February, Aymeric Laporte will hopefully be fit and back playing at centre-back, and they will have had the chance to strengthen their squad in the January transfer window.

Liverpool are holders, so they have been there and done it at this level, while City still have got something to prove. But Guardiola’s side have been on the wrong end of some bad luck in Europe recently – all they might need is for some of it to go their way.

Man City In Champions League: ‘Pep Guardiola’s Team Need Their Fans To Make Next Step

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