Manchester City are accustomed to looking up to other teams. For all the money, all the trophies, all the success, they have never been seen as The Team.
Barcelona enjoyed a spell as The Team, of course inspired by Pep Guardiola and spearheaded by Lionel Messi and his dancing feet. Real Madrid soaked up the plaudits as undisputed champions of Europe following back-to-back-to-back triumphs in the Champions League. Bayern Munich have always garnered a reputation for being the slightly more mysterious heavyweights, perhaps sitting out of the glare on Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, but always packing a punch.
Now Liverpool are forging their way towards the top of the global tree following their Champions League win last years and Premier League title victory this time around.
The common theme running through these sides? Champions League success. Domestic titles are never a lowly achievement, but another trouncing of the Bundesliga or Serie A doesn’t enhance a club’s reputation, they merely maintain it.
City have lifted the Premier League trophies in four of the last nine seasons, a tremendous achievement, but one where a fifth, sixth, seventh in 10, 13, 15 years won’t do a great deal for their standing in the game.
Resuming Champions League fixtures is a huge win for City who have a big shot at the real reputation-jolter, the real goal, the Champions League. What an opportunity they have this time around to sit the elite down and assert their dominance. The route is perilous, the journey is stacked against them, the entire knockout stage draw simply could not have been harder, but that presents City with the ultimate opportunity to prove their credentials as the ultimate force in world football.
City’s toughest potential run in the knockout stages could be La Liga champions Real Madrid, Serie A champions Juventus, Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich followed by a showdown with Ligue 1 champions PSG in the final. You couldn’t pick a more symbolic path to follow than eliminating the kings of Spain, Italy, Germany and France to become the ruling force on the continent.
Of course, the elephant in the room is City’s failure to come close to Liverpool in the Premier League. They were lax in too many games last season, the players know it, Pep knows it.
Liverpool are a huge force and deserve every inch of praise, but we must not forget their achievements failed – no matter how negligible the margin – to match City’s points total from two years prior. In the cold, clinical etchings of the history books, Liverpool’s title victory was just another title victory, City’s was a record-breaker.
If City can round out this season with a Champions League victory, if City go on to conquer the continent in this never-ending season, they may finally look down at, well, everyone else.
For the full breakdown of what games are coming up check out our Champions League fixtures on TV guide.
If you’re looking for something else to watch check out our TV guide.