Analysis: Can Manchester City break their Champions League curse?
Picture source: BBC - Manuel (pictured) may well feel confident, but how will City fare?

Analysis: Can Manchester City break their Champions League curse?

After failing to progress further than the last sixteen in their four attempts at Champions League football, the Citizens will be determined to finally turn domestic glory into success on the continent.

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Daniel Love

With the criteria for the group stage draw seeding changing to reflect domestic standings instead of previous achievement in the competition, Manchester City may feel they are unlucky once again with this season's draw. But they shouldn't.

The current Premier League leaders will face tough competition from last season's runners-up Juventus, successive Europa League champions Sevilla and Bundesliga outfit Borussia Mönchengladbach.

This aside, they have many reasons to be confident they can finally break into the quarter-finals and beyond, particularly now they've had four seasons to clock up European miles competing against the best.

Ahead of their opening Group D match up with Juve, we look at how the sky Blues can improve in Europe and where they may still struggle.

Strength of Defence

It goes without saying that judging from the opening five games of the season, City look unflappable at the back not conceding a single goal. That's even without the addition of proven world-class defender Nicolas Otamendi.

Vincent Kompany has looked back to his solid best and his centre-back partner, Eliaquim Mangala, has given no reason as to why he should surrender his place to the new £32m Argentine.

Even more impressively, somewhat second-choice full-backs Bacary Sagna and Aleksandar Kolarov have stepped up to the mark this season, showing they are equally capable of defending and providing attacking support.

Being spoilt for choice at the back can only serve to benefit the Citizens in Europe and when Manuel Pellegrini has a full squad fit to select from, he will feel he has one of the best defences in the competition.

Drop the 4-4-2

During his time as Manchester City manager, Pellegrini has been heavily criticised for his persistence with a 4-4-2 formation in Europe. The Chilean's team have looked second best in midfield when opting to line up this way and didn't make surpassing the group stage look easy last season.

Although the team have strengthened this summer, if they are to revert to this set-up they should expect to find similar frustration. We have seen from their impressive start so far that something akin to a 4-2-3-1 is where they look the most the dangerous, and should be the chosen Champions League line-up.

With depth to cover all of those positions in that formation, there should be no reason why City can't persevere with the system and progress.

Crucial counter-attacking

An area where Etihad faithful have fallen down in the past is their failure to counter attack clinically with pace, particularly when they have found themselves under the cosh for 80 minutes.

New additions in Raheem Sterling and Kevin de Bruyne are exactly what they needed to provide some relief in the games where City find themselves chasing for large periods against arguably better teams.

This injection of pace on the counter attack should prove to be invaluable ensuring they are able to soak up pressure and still have an outlet to win or rescue games.

Top the group

In the past two seasons whilst City finally reached the knockout stages, it's been as the group runner-up and has subsequently awarded Barcelona as last-16 opposition.

While they should feel able to stand toe-to-toe with such teams, if they want a better chance at overcoming the last-16 woes they will need to come top of another tricky group stage.

Yet although it may be a tough group, if current domestic form is anything to go by, Pellegrini's men will feel confident they can finally win a group stage and receive a potentially more favourable last 16 tie.

The Citizens have enjoyed a 100% winning start, whilst all of their group opposition are yet to register a league win in their opening games. Juventus (2 points), Sevilla (2 points) and Borussia Mönchengladbach (0 points) currently sit 16th, 18th and 20th in their respective leagues.

However even with less than perfect domestic starts, Juventus and Sevilla's European credentials are undoubted, so there can be no room for complacency as taking maximum points from games at the Etihad is a must in order for City to win the group.

Keep Sergio fit

Aguero eager to add to his Champions League tally
Star man: Aguero is key to City's European success

A knee injury from a cynical tackle against Crystal Palace means Aguero looks set to miss the opening group game, but the Blues will need their goal -scoring talisman fit and on form throughout the competition if they want to stand any chance.

The exit of Edin Dzeko and Stefan Jovetic has severely reduced the choice of strikers with a Champions League goal scoring record, whilst Wilfried Bony and youngster Kelechi Iheanacho are lacking in experience at the highest level.

Even though the club aren't short of dangerous attacking players, the burden will fall to Aguero to provide goals when the team are most up against it.

As we've seen many times before, it's not something he's afraid to do, but keeping him from out of the medical room could be the biggest challenge.

With the aforementioned factors and the start we've seen, you can expect Manchester City to finally take another step forward in the competition this season and begin to repeat the past successes of English clubs.

The squad certainly look hungry for success and will mount their Champions League challenge at home to Juventus at 19:45pm, Tuesday 15th September.

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