Belfast Telegraph

Manchester City's Euro failings leave Kompany with point to prove on big stage

By Ian Herbert

The intelligent conversation of Vincent Kompany has been a constant over the four turbulent years in which Manchester City have tried - and failed - to make a mark in the Champions League.

And the eve of another tournament it was no different.

Until they show the quality on this stage which they have delivered domestically, there will be a hole at the heart of the club, the City captain said with an honesty for which pre-match Champions League press conferences are not always known.

"As long as we don't perform and show our quality in the Champions League as we have in the Premier League, there will always be something left behind that leaves us unsatisfied," Kompany added.

City are being asked to do the hard yards once more, with Europa League winners Seville in their group and last season's beaten finalists Juventus at the Etihad tonight - muted though the Italians might be by the departures of Carlos Tevez and Andrea Pirlo and two defeats in their opening three Serie A matches.

Kompany tentatively agreed with the suggestion that this might be the best squad City have had in the Abu Dhabi era.

"Early signs would say so, but experience would teach you to be careful," he said.

Existing personnel have actually had as much to do with City's step-change as the extra incision the signing of Raheem Sterling has brought.

The two holding midfielders, Fernandinho and Yaya Touré, have simply been a far better shield for the defence this season than last.

So far, the decision to withdraw when Juventus took the asking price for Paul Pogba above £73m has not had consequences. City also have £52m Kevin de Bruyne to throw at the Italians tonight.

With a new season comes new hope that City can strike the balance between attack and defence to prevent continental competition flooding them on the counter-attack,but we have been here before in mid-September, talking about the side starting over.

There have still been only five wins in the club's 12 Champions League home games and it was more a statement of desperation than hope when Kompany claimed that City were better equipped for Europe.

"We have to be," he said. "It cannot be what it was in the previous years."

The club had not "handled" many of their Champions League games well, he added.

"It is quite simple. You can talk about balances but I think performances were down (last season.)

"Whatever happened last season needs to be used as a lesson. We have a good team and we should always believe in ourselves. That is a basic of what this squad needs to do, especially in the Champions League.

"The group might be the hardest this year again, but in that sense we have learned to cope with it in the last few years so that is not a bad thing.

"For the last five years since we have been in Champions League it has been Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich and that is it.

"They were the three strongest teams by miles and I think every other team has been playing catch up.

"Even if we manage to beat them, I think they are still the three strongest teams. For us to close the gap, or any other team, Juventus is the same, it will take time and hard work over years."

City cannot wait "years." If he is to feel his job no longer threatened by Pep Guardiola, the Bayern coach who is a friend and confidante of City director of football Txiki Begiristain, then Manuel Pellegrini needs to deliver some surprises in this arena and create a splash.

He has already confounded a few expectations by injecting some positive mental energy into his players and securing 11 consecutive Premier League wins.

Pellegrini, needless to say, had little to say on the subject.

"I don't think we must trust in Juventus because this is a different competition," he said.

Belfast Telegraph


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