- Latest updates from the Group F game at the Etihad Stadium
- Mertens, Napoli’s street dog striker, sets sights on Manchester City
- Email Jacob | or tweet @JacobSteinberg
Hello. Looking back to the first time the Champions League anthem blared around the Etihad Stadium, before the fans there would greet it as a chance to voice their disapproval of Uefa, perhaps it was clear that Manchester City were going to need some time to find their feet in the competition. Some newbies take to it straight away – Chelsea, for instance, got to the last eight in 2000 and almost knocked out Barcelona – but others are less sure of themselves at first and City fall into the latter category. They were full of optimism when they made their debut on 14 September 2011, having made a flying start in the Premier League, but any illusions they might have had about the challenges posed by the cream of the continent soon came apart against Napoli, who dominated in a 1-1 draw before going on to qualify for the last 16 at the expense of Roberto Mancini’s side.
It didn’t get any easier from there for City and any signs of improvement have mostly been gradual. Even when Manuel Pellegrini took them to the last four in 2016, they rather stumbled through before meekly going out to Real Madrid. It was supposed to change under Pep Guardiola last season, but despite an impressive win over Barcelona in the group stage, City still ended up crashing out on away goals to Monaco in the last 16. Though that wasn’t such a disgrace in the context of Monaco’s season, it was getting to the point where you wondered if City were ever going to be comfortable against Europe’s best.