There are two clubs that are routinely in the knockout stages of the Champions League, but yet to go all the way. They are the two clubs whose ownerships are hell-bent on winning the competition and have spent frightening sums of money to make it happen.
One of them is Paris Saint-Germain, and the other is Manchester City. Pep Guardiola has been widely regarded as one of if not the best coach in the world for over a decade now. He has won the Champions League before, but his current club has not.
They have come close on more than one occasion, but there is something about the latter stages of the tournament that does not seem to agree with City and Guardiola as a duo. It is no secret that the owners will only be 100% happy with Guardiola’s time at the club if he delivers a Champions League.
Here is his record in Champions League knockout games over the years at Manchester City.
His first attempt at the knockout stages with City was never really supposed to end with lifting the trophy. It was the beginning of a well-thought-out project and the squad was very much being built to take the next step.
In the round of 16, they came up against a Monaco side should have been beatable even while housing the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Radamel Falcao. City won a truly ridiculous game of football 5-3 at the Etihad but were beaten 3-1 in the away leg.
This was the season when City grabbed 100 points in the Premier League, becoming the first to ever do so. This was a team with the quality needed to win the Champions League.
City were up against FC Basel in the round of 16 and breezed through, winning the tie 5-2 on aggregate. They then had to face Liverpool, the only team to have beaten them in the Premier League that season so far. Guardiola left Raheem Sterling out in favour of Ilkay Gundogan and it just did not work.
Liverpool were 3-0 up in 32 minutes and the tie was already over. His 3-3-1-3 formation in the return leg did not work either and Liverpool won 2-1 at the Etihad, winning the tie 5-1 on aggregate.
Say what you will about Guardiola in the knockouts of the Champions League, but he brings the drama. The tie against Spurs is one that will live long in the memory.
The round of 16 saw City come up against Schalke. Winning the first leg 3-2, they then whacked their German opposition 7-0 at the Etihad. That set up a tie with Premier League opposition.
The first leg in north London ended 1-0 to Spurs which put City on the back foot. His selections in midfield seemed to stifle some of the most creative players and City were very predictable.
However, it was the VAR drama of Fernando Llorente’s goal and Raheem Sterling’s late winner in the second leg that marked this tie. Sterling had his goal ruled out and the entirety of the Etihad was crestfallen.
City won the game 4-3 on the night but Spurs went through on away goals with the tie ending 4-4 on aggregate.
This was perhaps the most embarrassing of his failures at City given the inferiority of the opposition. Lyon were not expected to get anywhere near the latter stages of the tournament but they made it to the semi-finals at City’s expense.
City felt they had momentum after impressively beating Real Madrid 2-1 in both Spain and Manchester to win the round of 16 tie 4-2. COVID-19 hit and by the time the quarter-final could be played, it was a one-off game.
Guardiola played a surprisingly defensive looking 3-4-3 formation but City fell away badly in the latter stages and Moussa Dembele scored twice to dump them out of what looked to be a superb chance to get into the semi-final of a wide-open tournament.
Guardiola’s best attempt to date. This was the moment where it seemed all the previous anguish was going to be forgotten about.
City beat Borussia Monchengladbach 4-0 in the round of 16 and then overcame Borussia Dortmund in the quarter-final. They were back at the semi-final stage and this time they were up against PSG, a team in the exact same position as them.
City won the first leg 2-1 in Paris and then finished the job with a 2-0 win in Manchester. By the time the final came around against Chelsea, the Blues had beaten City in the FA Cup and the Premier League in the month or so prior.
The trend continued. Guardiola made some tactical changes that turned heads involving Gundogan, Rodri and Fernandinho and Kai Havertz netted the winner for a Chelsea side that was hardly one for the ages.
It’s time for some more European drama involving City. This was frankly a stupid way to exit a tournament.
City had knocked out Sporting CP and Atletico Madrid on their way to the semi-finals and it was the other Madrid side that was waiting for them. Los Blancos had been poor in large spells during the tournament but just kept winning.
City won the first leg in Manchester 4-3. They headed to Spain with a clear objective. Just don’t lose.
By the 90th minute, City were 1-0 up and 5-3 up on aggregate. The tie was done. Then Rodrygo scored twice in stoppage time and took it to extra time. Five minutes later, Karim Benzema scored a penalty and City couldn’t muster anything in response. It was about as low as any modern City fan could remember feeling.
City have drawn 1-1 with RB Leipzig in their round of 16 tie in 2022/23, so it remains to be seen whether they will reach the promised land or have to deal with another premature exit.