Manchester City have failed to capture the Champions League with Pep Guardiola enduring several near misses but Rio Ferdinand believes this could finally be their year.
The tournament is more open that usual with a host of European heavyweights operating below their usual level. Nevertheless, all of the big hitters are in the knockout stages of the competition with City, holders Real Madrid and PSG among the favourites to triumph in Istanbul come June.
City have targeted Champions League glory ever since their wealthy owners arrived just over a decade ago. Guardiola, who won the tournament twice with Barcelona, have failed to win it in 12 years and has been criticised for his approach to knockout games.
But Ferdinand reckons the English champions, who are trying to chase down Arsenal domestically, can finally end their European hoodoo with Erling Haaland now in their ranks. They topped their group and will take on German outfit RB Leipzig.
The BT Sport pundit said on his prediction: “It’s just too difficult. I’m gonna go with City, just because of Haaland and Pep, he’s driven to win this. He’s been involved with the Premier League, but the Champions League is where it’s at for him. He’ll shut many people up if he does get it done.”
City’s best effort – and Guardiola’s best effort since leaving Barcelona – was the final appearance in 2021. They went into the clash as favourites but were undone by Chelsea in Porto. Last term they looked set to return to the final but were beaten by Real Madrid’s late show.
Guardiola insists that claiming Europe’s top prize is not an “obsession” and maintains that success in the competition would not change his legacy in Manchester. “My life doesn’t depend [on the Champions League]. I’d like to do it, everyone tries to do it. It’s not an obsession,” he said last year.
“To improve the team and play better. This is the main thing for me. The only thing I’m here for is to make the team play better, and the players individually to play better. Everyone knows the titles are there but I’m not thinking what will happen in 11 months if we win or lose… this is the only thing. If we win it will be genius, if we don’t we will be failures. Nothing is going to change.”
City will head to Germany next Wednesday for the first-leg of their last 16 clash before welcoming them to the Etihad. Guardiola’s side twice met Leizpig last term, winning in Manchester before they lost out in their final group fixture at the Red Bull Arena.