Why do Manchester City struggle so much in the Champions League?

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In their Group E clash against AS Roma on Tuesday, familiar issues struck Manchester City as their struggles in the UEFA Champions League continue.

[RECAP: Chelsea beat Lisbon, PSG top Barca]

Without a win from their opening two group games of the 2014-15 UCL campaign, their upcoming back-to-back games with CSKA Moscow are now crucial if Manuel Pellergini’s men are to advance to the knockout stages for the second-straight season. They sit five points behind Group E leaders Bayern and three points behind Roma with a trip to the Italian capital still to come.

[RELATED: Champions League standings]

The fact that last season marked City’s first-ever trip to the knockout rounds of Europe’s elite club competitions sets up the story. They just haven’t performed well in the Champions League since they qualified for the first time back in 2011-12.

With a galaxy of superstar players such as Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure and Vincent Kompany, plus a manager known for success in European competitions, Manuel Pellegrini, City’s floundering performances just don’t make sense.

Let’s try and break this down and get to the bottom of their European struggles.

Tempo troubles

Time and time again groans came from the home fans as City were forced to pass backwards and sideways. They could not dictate the tempo as Roma, like many other UCL teams, waltzed into the Etihad Stadium and set the tone. Even though City scored early on against the Italians, instead of inspiring confidence in its players the goal seemed to put them on the back foot. Roma equalized soon after and only when Pellegrini changed formations by replacing Edin Dzeko with Frank Lampard to create a 4-5-1 did City gain control of the game for the final 20 minutes. Maybe going for a 4-5-1 home and away in Europe is the way forward for Pellegrini’s men to gain control of games like they do in the Premier League. After the game City midfielder James Milner, who come on at half time to try and stop Roma’s counter-attacks summed things up: “We didn’t play at our best but we had a fair few chances and could have nicked it. We never played at our tempo which teams find hard to deal with. They [Roma] are well organised and we didn’t do enough.”

Lack of belief

To be saying this is a bit of a joke but this group of players, most of which have won the PL title in two of the past three seasons, seems to be lacking in confidence. Right now, Yaya Toure is playing like a cowering cat compared to the marauding lion who drove City onto PL success last season. Vincent Kompany had another bad night in Europe on Tuesday and Joe Hart’s slip gave Francesco Totti the initiative for Roma’s equalizer. Aguero scored a PK but did little else and there seemed to be a lot of hands on hips, heavy exhaling and looks of dismay from City’s players. Too many times their big-name players have failed to shine in Europe as Yaya Toure has now had two terrible performances to open up his UCL campaign as Fernandinho did double work to cover the Ivorian in midfield.

source: Getty Images
Pellegrini had past success with smaller Spanish teams in the UCL but is struggling with City.

UEFA coefficient

Until Man City reach the latter stages of the UCL, I’m talking semifinals or final, then they will continue to be dealt a tough draw in the group stages. That is down to their old friend, the UEFA coefficient. That gem measures the success of a club over the past five season in European competition and City were ranked 17th in Europe in terms of their success in the continental competitions since 2009-10. That means that unless they reach the late stages of the knockout rounds, they will struggle to move out of pot 2 and into the top pot which would therefore give them a better (in theory) chance of qualifying from the group stages. Is that pressure getting to the players? After being knocked out at the group stage for their first two UCL campaigns, their coefficient would take a huge hit and they may drop into pot 3 if they failed to make at least the last 16 this season.

Pellegrini’s tactics

On more than one occasion, City have come unstuck in Europe due to Pellegrini’s slightly strange tactics. Yes, we are talking about the 3-2 win away at Bayern last season in the group stages where he demanded his team to sit back… even though one more goal meant they finished top in the group and avoid playing Barcelona in the knockout stages. D’oh! It took Pellegrini 60 minutes to change his tactics on Tuesday as Dzeko was pulled for Lampard and City looked so much more fluid as they almost grabbed all three points. Look, Pellegrini took Malaga to the UCL semifinals in 2013 and Villarreal to the final four in 2006. Both Spanish clubs are tiny in comparison to City and it seems as though the weight of securing success and silverware in Europe from City’s demanding but incredibly supportive (especially financially) owners may be getting too much for the Chilean to handle. After winning the Premier League last season, success in the Champions League is City’s number one aim this term and so far, even though there are still four group games left, it’s not going well at all. Same old story for the Citizens.

Brighton – Manchester United: How to watch, start time, odds, prediction

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Brighton – Manchester United: Impressive Brighton and Hove Albion hopes to continue Manchester United’s winless league season when the Red Devils visit the Amex Stadium on Saturday (Watch live at 7:30 am ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

It will be the first two meetings in several days, as Brighton’s win at Preston North End and United’s takedown of Luton Town set up a League Cup fourth round date at the Amex.

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]

United handled Brighton well last season, winning 3-1 and 3-0, so this will be a great test at the acumen of both managers: Graham Potter in his second full season with the Seagulls and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer attempting to prove his doubters wrong.

Team news: Brighton – Manchester United (INJURY REPORT)

The Seagulls will not have Yves Bissouma, who was suspended three matches for his no-look, studs-up kick into the face of Newcastle defender Jamal Lewis. Brighton manager Graham Potter revealed that the long-term recovery of Jose Izquierdo is about two weeks away from being complete.

Manchester United will be without Axel Tuanzebe and Phil Jones.

What they’re saying

Potter on the League Cup win setting up consecutive Man United tests: “It’s a big week for us with those two matches and then Everton before the international break. That’s what we wanted because we wanted to go through in this competition. Players always want to play and the best thing for them is to be out on the field on nights like tonight to keep everyone in the group ready for when they’re needed. You saw that today. There was a willingness to run and fight for the team and get the result and that’s why I’m very happy.”

United’s Solskjaer after goalkeeper Dean Henderson starred on his senior debut: “The goalkeeping department and training level has been really high, of course, you can see driven and dedicated people and I’ve enjoyed watching them. Dean in goal, good save, you can see he’s having to concentrate and it’s a different job to what he’s done a few times last season and he came up with the save when he had to.”

League Cup results
LUTON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 22: Dean Henderson of Manchester United saves a shot at Kenilworth Road (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Brighton is +375 to win at home, while a draw nets the wagerer +260. Manchester United is expected to win and thusly -130 to take all three points.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links

Brighton – Manchester United prediction

The only thing keeping us from pegging a very impressive Brighton team to collect another win is the shadow cast by Manchester United’s 2019-20 season (and long tradition of winning). United was rusty in its loss to Crystal Palace and had to work hard to defeat Luton Town in the League Cup. If that rust was there last week, how do the legs feel after a week? Anyway, the Red Devils still have Bruno Fernandes and it just doesn’t seem like this team starts 0-2 (or even 0-1-1). I grimace as I write 2-1 to Manchester United.

How to watch Brighton – Manchester United stream and start time

Kickoff: 7:30 am ET Saturday
TV Channel: NBCSN
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

Lampard gushes after Thiago Silva debut, Havertz hat trick

Frank Lampard reaction
Photo by ALASTAIR GRANT/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
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Chelsea rebounded from its weekend loss to Liverpool by getting the good vibes going through a number of new faces Wednesday in a League Cup blowout of Barnsley.

Kai Havertz scored three times, Ben Chilwell came off the bench to chip in an assist on debut, and Thiago Silva went 60 minutes in his first match in a Chelsea shirt as the Blues pounded the Championship side 6-0.

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]

We’ll start with the longtime PSG defender, who had four clearances, an interception, and a tackle while winning both of his duels.

He passed at 94 percent including six-of-seven long balls. Even accounting for the competition, that’s solid.

Lampard called Silva’s outing “a perfect 60 minutes” via Football.London:

“He also gave us something for me on the night in the dressing room and on the pitch of a leader with authority in terms of his demands on others,” Lampard said. “He can’t speak the language but at the minute that’s not even a problem because his presence and the way he commands people around him is already showing that to me in training and in our game tonight. Yes, I am very very pleased with Thiago. It is what I expected of a player of his level but it is very refreshing to have him here at the club.”

ProSoccerTalk talked about Chelsea’s need for a leader at the back during this week’s “Unfiltered,” and Lampard has clearly been waiting for someone like Silva.

As for Havertz, you only needed the box score to see his influence on the game.

Two of Havertz’s three goals were assisted by Tammy Abraham and a third from Mason Mount.

The German phenom also racked up five tackles and two key passes against Barnsley.

“He makes the recovery tackle for Ross (Barkley)’s goal, but then to also just have some freedom on the ball in central areas roaming behind Tammy,” Lampard said. “The combinations he had with Tammy, the way he grew into the game and had confidence and the three goals. It was a great night for Kai and the first of many for him.”

Havertz scored seven braces for Bayer Leverkusen, but this was his first hat trick. Barnsley may play in the second tier, but they had allowed three goals in their last four games.


Actors Reynolds, McElhenney bid to invest in Wrexham AFC

Wrexham AFC
Photos by Amy Sussman/Getty Images and Jim Spellman/WireImage
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“The Gang Buys a Football Team?”

“It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” actor Rob McElhenney and “Deadpool” star Ryan Reynolds are said to be in talks to buy National League side Wrexham AFC, reports The Guardian.

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]

The Welsh club, nicknamed the Red Dragons, was founded in 1864 and made it to the European Cup Winners’ Cup eight times between 1972-96.

They’ve since been relegated out of the Football League, dipping out of League Two in 2008.

McElhenney and Reynolds have bid to take over the club, and the Wrexham Supporters Trust says 97.5 percent of their members voted to allow the actors to propose their vision for the club before a second vote.

From wst.org.uk:

As a result, talks with the proposed bidders will now continue and we are in a position to confirm the two people interested in investing in Wrexham AFC.

Rob McElhenney is an American actor, director, producer and screenwriter, best known as the creator of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Ryan Reynolds is an award-winning Canadian actor, writer, producer and business entrepreneur whose credits include Marvel’s Deadpool.

It’s gotta get McElhenney’s goat that Reynolds gets the “award-winning” adjective added to his name.

Either way, this is definitely an intriguing club for investment and the potential addition of Reynolds and McElhenney to the fray would only increase the interest in Wrexham AFC.

Deadpool and Mac would be quite a combo in the transfer market.

Arteta drawn into Ozil discussion, reacts to Liverpool doubleheader

Arteta on Ozil
Photo by RUI VIEIRA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
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Mikel Arteta did his best not to give a soundbite that included Mesut Ozil’s name following Arsenal’s 2-0 win over Leicester City in League Cup action on Wednesday.

Ozil, 31, has not played since assisting the lone goal in a March 7 win over West Ham and has since only twice even made the bench (June 20 and 25).

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]

Asked six times about the German, Arteta painted in broad strokes before mentioning Ozil in the second set of questions.

Arteta said that Ozil simply hasn’t warranted a place in an 18. This is how he responded when asked if he understood why there are so many questions about a player who has 44 goals and 77 assists in 254 appearances for the Gunners.

From Football.London:

“Of course I understand and I respect your questions but I have to try to do my job as fair as possible. I try to select the players that are, in my opinion, in better condition.”

Okay then.

As for Wednesday’s win, the Gunners broke through on a Christian Fuchs own goal before sealing the deal on Eddie Nketiah’s marker just before the final whistle.

Arsenal was outshot 15-10 but both teams were decidedly second-string. Now the Gunners get consecutive affairs at Anfield, as Liverpool is the hosts for a Monday meeting in the Premier League and a League Cup fourth round tie days later.

Arteta was asked how big of a test that will be for the Gunners.

“You can imagine, probably the toughest place to go in Europe or the world. That’s the fixtures, we have to go there. Let’s go first on Monday, let’s prepare well and see how it goes.”

Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-1 at the Emirates Stadium in July to deny the Reds a 100-point season, weeks after the Reds clinched the Premier League title. The Gunners again topped Liverpool in the Community Shield one month later.

The atmosphere and stakes will be high again next week. Surely Arteta can’t go 4-0 against Jurgen Klopp, right? Right?