Samir Nasri hails the Roman 'miracle' but Manchester City still have plenty to learn

City showed the kind of confidence that can take you far

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Samir Nasri described it as a “miracle” that with two points from their first four Champions League group games, Manchester City still had a chance to qualify for the last 16 of the competition – and yet they finished with a flourish in Rome on Wednesday night, showing the kind of confidence that can take you far.

As the City players celebrated victory in front of the narrow segment of away fans in Roma’s Stadio Olimpico, the mind went back to Xabi Alonso’s misplaced pass to the feet of Stevan Jovetic in the previous game against Bayern Munich on 25 November.

Trailing 2-1 to the composed 10 men of Bayern, City were on their way to a chastening third defeat in the group but then from Jovetic’s pass to Sergio Aguero they scored the first of two late goals that would win them the game.

With four minutes left at the Etihad Stadium some City fans had already left and will have heard the roar that greeted the second of Aguero’s three goals from outside the stadium. Victory over Bayern was one of those strange  fork-in-the-road moments for City: mistakes by Alonso, a lapse by Jérôme Boateng and the brilliant, instinctive  finishing of Aguero.

Samir-Nasri-2.jpg
Samir Nasri celebrates his goal against Roma

It laid the foundation for a fine 2-0 win in Roma, one which was a world away from the anxiety of those defeats at home to CSKA Moscow and away to Bayern and which posed the question whether, in midfield at least, the manager Manuel Pellegrini had stumbled across a better combination. In the absence of the suspended Yaya Touré the greater discipline of the Fernandinho-Fernando axis enabled City to withstand the best that Roma had to offer before Nasri and then Pablo Zabaleta scored the goals.

Asked what the potential of City was in Europe, Nasri said much would depend on the draw. “For me, we have one of the best teams in the world. We just have to show it. I think when you go through, with all the difficulties we had, it’s a miracle. With two points after four games, and you still have a chance to qualify. But we did it and I think we can go as far as possible. But we have to be lucky in the draw.

“We have to have all the players fit at the same moment, because at the start of the season we never had the full squad fully fit to give headaches to the manager to choose his best 11. When we are able to have all of these players available, we will see how good we are.

“I just think you want too much from us,” he added. “We have qualified, and we are just three points behind Chelsea. A week ago, everyone was comparing them to the ‘Invincibles’ from Arsenal, everyone saying they were unbeatable, stuff like that. Then it must mean we are not that bad.

Samir-Nasri.jpg
Manchester City midfielder Samir Nasri

“The thing is, last season we were smashing every team  6-1, 6-0, 5-0, but everyone has studied all the teams, it’s not the same any more. And you have a couple of injured players and a couple of key players who are not at their best so, you know, we just show that as a team we can perform.”

City have a run of games this month  that they will expect to win: Leicester (away), Crystal Palace (home), West Bromwich Albion (away), Burnley (home), Sunderland (away). They face Everton, Arsenal and Chelsea in January – the last of them at Stamford Bridge surely setting up the last four months of the title race.

Yet in the Champions League the draw will dictate much. It is hard to see City beating Real Madrid or Barcelona over two legs given how far off they looked against the latter at the same stage last season, when they had a man sent off in both legs and seemed incapable of managing the demands of playing against such an experienced side. They will get there one day, it is just a question of how long it takes for the lessons to be learned and the small details to go their way.

web-live-blog-2-getty.jpg
Manchester City's Samir Nasri celebrates after scoring

David Silva was unequivocal after the win in Rome – his first appearance since the Newcastle game on 29 October: City have to avoid the three Spanish teams –including Atletico Madrid – in the next round. “I prefer anyone else,” he said. “I don’t want any one of them. The later you play a Spanish team the better, right? They’re all that good that one is as difficult as another.

“Every team that gets through now, they’re difficult. No matter who we get, we have to be 100 per cent, and have to get a little luck too.”

Naturally the form of Aguero will be key come the second round at the end of February. Against Barcelona last season, they were schooled in the art of winning tight European ties. Against Bayern last month, they were being passed off the pitch by 10 men. The questions for City come the spring will be how far have they come and how quickly have they learned?

European form guide and who sides can face

Manchester City: Group E

Began poorly but proved credentials by beating Bayern and looking strong in Rome.

Who they can face in last 16

Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, Monaco, Borussia Dortmund, Barcelona, Porto

Dream tie

Porto

Nightmare tie

Real Madrid

Arsenal: Group D

Overwhelmed Galatasaray home and away but losing 3-0 lead to Anderlecht hurt.

Who they can face in last 16

Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, Monaco, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Porto

Dream tie

Monaco

Nightmare tie

Bayern Munich

Chelsea: Group G

Dominated the group. Thrash-ed Maribor and Schalke to show they should be feared.

Who they can face in last 16

Juventus, Basel, Bayer Leverkusen, Paris Saint-Germain, Shakhtar Donetsk

Dream tie

Basel

Nightmare tie

PSG

Comments