The blue side of Manchester has seen very little in the form trophies or silverware in recent years; no major trophy has been added to their dusty cabinet since 1976!
They won the Division One championship in 2002, which saw the Citizens move back to top-flight football after a ten-year absence (excluding their one season in 2001 which proved to be too much too early).
Now, City have an incredible opportunity to make their mark in Europe and add to their two League Championships, four FA Cups, two League Cups and one European Cup Winners Cup, by winning the UEFA Cup. This European adventure only began through the Fair Play League and did not seem like a priority at the beginning of the season. However the club has never been in a better position to bring back success to Eastlands than now.
Under the new ownership of the Abu Dhabi United Group and backed by a seemingly endless wealth City are vying to be a major force in the football world. It appears money can’t buy you everything however, at least not a Premier League title straightaway (although Roman Abramovich would beg to differ). City currently lie in 10th position not really looking like they will improve on last year’s 9th place, when money was neither as plentiful, nor the players brought in as ludicrously overpriced.
With so much money spent on the likes of Nigel De Jong (Ã‚Â£18.7m), Craig Bellamy (Ã‚Â£14m), Wayne Bridge (Ã‚Â£12.5m), Elano (Ã‚Â£8m) and Robinho (a whopping Ã‚Â£32.5m) a lot of these players’ price tags are yet to be justified. Having said that City are the only British club who remain in the UEFA Cup. With all these big names arriving at Eastlands Mark Hughes has the monumental task of trying to gel a team together and bring an immediate return on all the Sheikh’s millions.
Hughsey faces ex-Spurs man Martin Jol’s side: “There’s the connection with Hamburg with us having Vincent and Nigel here, and we played them in pre-season which should help our preparations. We are a very different side from then to now, and we can look forward to this with confidence.” They meet on Thursday 9 April in the Nordbank Arena for the first leg of a quarter-final clash which could make or break either teams’ season.
Jol has created a tough team to beat at Hamburg. Jol’s side also came back from 2-0 to beat Turkish giants Galatasaray 3-2 in Istanbul in the previous round. They beat TSG Hoffenheim 1-0 on the weekend and are keeping pace with Bundesliga leaders Wolfsburg, purely because of a superior goal difference. The Bundesliga looks as tight as the Premier League, if not tighter, with Hertha Berlin and Bayern two and three points behind, respectively.
Hamburg have also already overcome Villa in the group stages. If Hughes can get one over Jol, and City reach the last four he will then face more German opposition or mid-table Italian side Udinese.
The other quarter-finals are both all French-Ukranian affairs with Shaktar Donestk -Marseille and Paris St Germain-Dynamo Kiev battling out. A new winner will be crowned UEFA Cup champions in its last remaining year, before it becomes the Europa :eague, as four former champions were knocked out in the last round.
Finally, although Jol expects the tie to be a close-fought one claiming; “Manchester City are a team that for me are among the best six in England.” I’m sure there are many City fans and the Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan himself who remain to be convinced.
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