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Euro crisis

City do not look like potential Champions League winners, say Jeff

Features - Jeff Stelling Posted 4th October 2012 view comments

For all their spending Man City were light years behind Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday night.

Roberto Mancini admitted after the game that his team were poor but one of the things he blamed it on was their lack of Champions League experience. I think that's nonsense.

Dortmund hadn't been in the competition for eight years prior to last season and, like City, they didn't get out of their group, finishing behind Arsenal, Marseille and Olympiakos.

Lescott: the City centre-back has not been a regular so far this term

Lescott: the City centre-back has not been a regular so far this term

At the Etihad Stadium, though, the Germans thoroughly outplayed their opponents and delivered a breath-taking display of attacking football.

It is good to see another German side impressing as since Dortmund won the Champions League in 1997 it has been the Bayern Munich show and, in Mario Gotze (20); Marco Reus (23); Robert Lewandowski (24); Ilkay Gundogan (21); Sven Bender (23); and Neven Subotic (23), they have some fantastic young players.

Joleon Lescott has been in and out more times than the hokey-cokey and that has left people bemused.

Jeff Stelling
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City, however, have problems, which seems strange to say what with them winning the Premier League back in May.

The main issues are at the back, where there have been a lot of changes to both the defensive system and personnel.

Joleon Lescott has been in and out more times than the hokey-cokey and that has left people, including Graeme Souness and Gary Neville, who would both include the England man in the City back four, bemused.

David Silva was very good in the first half against Dortmund but he has not been quite the force he was last season, while City rely very heavily on Yaya Toure to be at his peak every game and that is not easy to do in the Champions League; he barely got a kick of the ball on Wednesday.

And when you look at their summer buys you can't help but think it's a case of 'buy in haste, repent at leisure'; Matija Nastasic is just a kid, while would you say that Scott Sinclair, Javi Garcia, Jack Rodwell and Maicon have improved the side? The basic answer is no.

Some of the aforementioned are young and may be key men in future years but they are not the players to give you a quick fix - if they needed a fix in the first place.

City have a long, long way to go in terms of the Champions League and with the way the group is going they may need to win in Dortmund or beat Real Madrid at home - or perhaps even both - to advance.

Talk of them winning the tournament this season is hugely premature.

Manner

City would have lost at a canter if not for an inspired goalkeeping performance from Joe Hart, who kept Dortmund at bay with a string of magnificent saves.

Michael Ballack was one of our Champions League pundits on Wednesday night and I was trying to tease him into saying that Hart is better than German stopper Manuel Neuer. The former Chelsea man was having none of it!

Wayne Rooney, however, Tweeted that Hart was the finest 'keeper in the world and the City man is certainly up there - but he probably has to do it for another year or two before we can categorically say he is the best in the business.

What I like about Hart, though, is that he plays the game in the right manner and always has a smile on his face. He is a fantastic example for aspiring pros to follow.

Hart will be up against Sunderland this weekend (12.30pm, Sat, Sky Sports 2 HD/Sky 3D), with the Black Cats looking to replicate last term's win over Mancini's side.

Martin O'Neill will play it down but I think a top-10 finish would represent success for Sunderland this season. They have spent pretty heavily on Steven Fletcher and he has already paid dividends, netting each of the Black Cats' five Premier League goals since his summer arrival from Wolves.

I was speaking to John Collins about him, a man who managed Fletcher at Hibernian in his early days, and he said the 25-year-old has this uncanny ability to find the corner of the net every single time with his left foot. The Scot is proving how fantastic a finisher he is and I think the purple patch will continue for a while yet.

Sunderland have got a lot of quality elsewhere in their side, too; the goalkeeper Simon Mignolet is excellent, they have the talented Stephane Sessegnon in midfield, James McClean has been a revelation since he came into the side last season and former Man City man Adam Johnson should soon fire on all cylinders.

The Mackems should really test City on Saturday.

Jeff's Gem of the Week

I am going to go for Peterborough this week, who won twice away from home having previously failed to register a point from their opening seven matches of the Championship campaign.

Some bookmakers were giving odds on Posh not getting a win all season, but they shattered that idea by garnering a victory at Hull, one of the toughest places to visit in the division, and following that up by taking three points at Barnsley.

Darren Ferguson is a very likeable character and realises that Peterborough have to sell to survive. I am very pleased at his success.

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