The idea of playing a quick-fire mini tournament to end this season’s Champions League might seem daunting to some clubs, but it’s an option that could suit Manchester City more than most.
The Champions League has currently been halted due to the Coronavirus. However, the idea of playing the semi-finals and final over just four days in Istanbul has been discussed.
City are already considered the favourites with most UK football betting sites like 888Sport with 3/1 odds to secure the trophy when UCL football does return. Having to play high intensity matches in a short amount of time could boost their chances even further. Here is why.
European focus for Guardiola’s men
When football does get back underway, City will be able to give the Champions League their full attention. They are now well out of title contention with Liverpool just a few more wins from wrapping up the Premier League title.
Not having to fight on two fronts will be a big help as Pep Guardiola chases his first Champions League success with City. It’s also a factor not in favour of some of their European rivals.
Real Madrid and Barcelona are again locked in a battle at the top of La Liga in Spain, Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich have it all to play for in Germany’s Bundesliga, and Juventus are being pushed all the way by Lazio in Italy’s Serie A.
Unlike those teams, City would only really have to manage extra games due to the FA Cup, but the Champions League was always going to take priority over that competition regardless.
City have impressive squad depth
One thing that will certainly be needed if the Champions League is to be completed over just four days will be a strong squad.
The difference between success and failure could come down to the team that is best able to deal with fatigue or a few unexpected injuries. This is not an issue that will worry Manchester City due to their impressive squad depth.
Their attacking options are packed with players who are able to slot in without taking anything away from the overall ability of the team. When Raheem Sterling or Bernardo Silva don’t play, in comes Riyad Mahrez, David Silva or Phil Foden.
This ability to switch players in and out without disrupting the system is highlighted further in the striker role. Goal-machine Sergio Aguero and Brazilian understudy Gabriel Jesus have played 22 and 24 times respectively in the Premier League, despite rarely starting together.
Kevin De Bruyne (26 appearances), Rodrigo (26) and Ikay Gundogan (25) given them interchangeable options centrally in case of injury. That is even without counting Fernandinho, who has been used to cover injuries in defence this season. While that defensive area remains a cause for concern, the return of Aymeric Laporte is an addition timely boost.
Having Kyle Walker, Oleksander Zinchenko, Benjamin Mendy and Joao Cancelo as option at full-back also mean Pep won’t be afraid to rotate if necessary.
Having the ball key to fitness levels
There are few managers that advocate possession football tactics quite as much as Pep Guardiola. And while possession won’t guarantee overall success, it certainly does help manage fatigue levels.
Despite failing to hit the heights of last season, City’s average possession stats still sit at over 60% in the Premier League and just slightly under that in Europe.
Add in an average pass accuracy of nearly 90% and it all means opposition players can expect to spend a lot of time without the ball against them. This means City are able to manage their on-field effort much easier and means having quick-fire games to play in a short amount of time shouldn’t be as daunting.
So, while a shortened end to the Champions League might not be the choice of many clubs, one team that could certainly manage the situation better than most is Manchester City.