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June 2023 saw the Cityzens of Manchester take the entire continent by the horns to be crowned winners of the UEFA Champions League. Remaining the only laurel eluding the club since Sheikh Mansour’s takeover in 2008. 

Rodrigo’s 68th-minute stunner past a helpless André Onana proved to be all the difference in earning Pep Guardiola a long overdue UCL title since 2011.

In 2023/2024, the club started on a strong foot in defending their title, attempting to be the first side to retain the title since Real Madrid CF did across 2016-2018.

Manchester City last summer became the tenth European team to win the treble as they complimented the Champions League with their domestic cup and league title.

In 2023/2024, Guardiola’s side already won the UEFA Super Cup in addition to the UEFA Club World Cup where they blazed past Flamengo in the finals.

Not resting on established success, director of football Txiki Begiristain ensured new additions to further bulk up the squad. Portuguese midfielder Matheus Nunes joined from the Molineux in addition to explosive winger Jeremy Doku from Stade Rennais. Josko Gvardiol came on earlier in the summer for a deal totaling €90 million to become the league's second most expensive defender.

Manchester City: 2023/24 Champions League campaign

Their Champions League group phase saw the club take all available points winning six of six games to sit atop the group. Rounded off by Serbian side Crvena Zvezda, Swiss outfit Young Boys, and RB Leipzig which finished in second place six points off City.

FC Koebenhavn somehow took the runner-up spot ahead of Manchester United and Turkish giants Galatasaray to set up a knockout tie with the defending champions.

Goals from midfielders Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, and Phil Foden to set up a comfortable lead ahead of the return leg in Manchester. 

Pep Guardiola continues to remain ahead of the pack as he continues to introduce innovations on all fronts.

Guardiola’s tactical masterclass, Haaland dependency, and the KDB factor

The 2022/2023 season saw Pep Guardiola heavy on inverted full-backs with Joao Cancelo and Rico Lewis. Discipline issues with the Portuguese full-back saw him adopt a more seasoned approach. 

Going for a flat-back four of central defenders with one inverting into what's now known as the “John Stone role” in midfield and the other three covering the wide spaces in their defensive third.

The most appealing in recent times has been how he's managed to incorporate both his center forwards in the same lineup — the raw Erling Haaland and the lover of tight spaces in Julian Alvarez. 

The World Cup winner often plays as a part of the midfield four, while the Norwegian takes up the central spot up top.

Haaland has found the back of the net 36 times across 33 starts last season, to break the record for most goals scored in a single PL campaign. Totaling 79 goals in his stint in Manchester so far since his debut in July 2022 — at least 30 more than any other Premier League player during that time (Mohamed Salah with 49 in second place). 

In addition, Kevin De Bruyne’s return from injury and the upward spiral of form from the club side is expected in the final weeks of the season.

Sandwiched in the race for the English premier league between Arsenal and Liverpool FC, KDB's injury comes as a timely boost. Racking up twelve goal involvements in all appearances since January 7th, notably picking up four assists in the recent FA cup tie away to Luton.

The 32-year-old Belgian playmaker, nearing the end of his contract with Manchester City, is showing no signs of slowing down as he remains at the heart of Manchester City's gameplay. With the club challenging to take every available title left, the former VfL Wolfsburg playmaker will take center stage.

Having been knocked out of the EFL cup earlier in the season by Newcastle United and booking their slot in the next phase of the other domestic cup, the Cityzens are only left occupied by the English league in their bid to defend their continental title.

City's Champions League charge resumes with the return leg against FC Koebenhavn in Manchester on March 6th. Man City tickets are in high demand for obvious reasons at this point.

What has been said?

For the most part, many believe Manchester City can retain their continental crown and go all the way this season again. They are not wrong to think so, especially as most of the ‘top sides’ in the Champions League have looked out of sorts, bar Real Madrid.

Even the bookmakers have City as the top favorite to win this year’s edition and that speaks volumes as well.

Speaking at an on-stage Q&A session at the Globe Soccer Awards in Dubai back in January, Cristiano Ronaldo admitted that City has enough quality to win the Champions League again.

He said: "I think they have the potential to do it the same. I hope not. But they have potential.

"They still have a good team. Some players are in their prime. They play good football.”

"I think they have a good chance to win the Champions League again. But we will see. Many factors will happen."

City boss Pep Guardiola also claimed at the start of this season’s Champions League that it would be easier for his side to defend their continental crown than winning the Premier League again in the current campaign.

He said: "It'll be easier. The most difficult to win is the first one. It is incredible for us but it is just one."

"It's important that the players don't feel relaxed. For our club to win the Champions League is incredible but in perspective how many [clubs have] won one Champions League? A lot.”

"We haven't done anything special with just one, but we are incredibly proud."

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