Maybe the best Manchester City can hope for is to avoid defeat

Ahead of Bayern meeting Kompany stresses importance of setting out to win their group

Manchester City players (L-R) Vincent Kompany, Frank Lampard and Aleksandar Kolarov during their  training session in Munich on Tuesday. Photograph: Marc Mueller / EPA

Manchester City players (L-R) Vincent Kompany, Frank Lampard and Aleksandar Kolarov during their training session in Munich on Tuesday. Photograph: Marc Mueller / EPA

 

The mission for Manchester City in Bavaria this evening is to prove their Champions League lesson has been learned. With Manuel Pellegrini hoping for a “mature” campaign from his team, “avoid defeat” may be the manager’s final words before facing a Bayern Munich side which overran City at the Etihad Stadium last season.

The match ended in a 3-1 defeat – a lesson handed out by Pep Guardiola’s side – and, despite winning the reverse fixture 3-2, the group ended with both teams tied on 16 points, with Bayern top on head-to- head results.

City progressed to the last 16 for the first time but were drawn against Barcelona and knocked out. As City prepared to face Bayern at the Allianz Arena for a third time in four seasons, Vincent Kompany reiterated the need to end as stage winners.

“We know how much damage it can cause your hopes if you don’t win the group,” the City captain said. “We always face difficult teams if we are not seeded, but we were very close last year.”

To win a group that includes CSKA Moscow and Roma, as well as the champions of 2013, who will send out Philipp Lahm, Jérôme Boateng, Manuel Neuer, Mario Götze and Thomas Müller from Germany’s World Cup-winning side – Bastian Schweinsteiger is injured – remains a tough task.

Yet this is what City must achieve to ensure the best hope of progressing to the competition’s business end. Pellegrini’s team are battle hardened and vastly experienced. The likely starting XI will have no player under 25 and includes the star names of Yaya Touré, Kompany, David Silva, Samir Nasri, Edin Dzeko, Joe Hart and Sergio Agüero.

“Only one winner” When put to Kompany that anything less than reaching the semi-finals would constitute failure, he said: “I always say the same: ‘There is always one winner.’ All the rest are losers.

“Anything but first place is the same for me. You start a season at Manchester City nowadays and it’s not acceptable not to put all the trophies on your ambitions list.

“It’s a case of me and all the players looking at all the trophies and thinking: ‘We have to go until the very end of the season’ . . .

“We have won so far – in the last four years we have been successful – but you always want to take it a step further. Let’s take it in context: we are not favourites by any means for this competition but we would like to compete and challenge.”

Kompany did let slip his belief City would soon add the European Cup to recent success.

“Before we won the league it was more difficult to believe we could do it than with the Champions League. My experience of the Champions League is that it’s not more difficult to go to the end but everything has to be perfect.

“The Premier League is just a ferocious battle to the end. Eventually it will happen our way,” he said.

Last year’s defeat by Bayern featured an exhibition of pass- and-move that engulfed a City defence who had Micah Richards at right-back, with Martin Demichelis partnering Joleon Lescott. The victory in Munich had Kompany and Matija Nastasic as the central pairing.

Kompany-Demichelis, now the first-choice axis in central defence, was not available to Pellegrini a year ago, but they are expected to line up when Pablo Zabaleta is suspended.

Yet this time Pellegrini can call Bacary Sagna at right- back – rather than Richards – into a rearguard that will expect another busy evening.

Depleted ranks It may be easy for Pellegrini to order his players to stop Bayern retaining the ball, far harder to execute at the Allianz Arena, but this is what the manager will ask. There is some hope, though, in Guardiola’s depleted ranks.

Toni Kroos, last season’s prompter-in-chief, who made 76 successful passes at the Etihad, now plays for Real Madrid. From the rest who featured, Rafinha (84 passes), Franck Ribéry (80) and Schweinsteiger (73) are all ruled out because of injury, while Arjen Robben (56) is a doubt.

Yet a side containing Neuer, Lahm, Müller and Götze still expect victory.

For Kompany, Bayern remain the benchmark despite their 4-0 capitulation to Real Madrid in this stadium in the second leg of last season’s semi-final. “Every single time you come here is an opportunity to prove yourself. We now take it as a challenge against one of the top three clubs in the world,” he said.

“Bayern Munich is one of the hardest places to come to. It’s time to start making these games close and making up the gap between ourselves and the other top clubs.” Guardian Service

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