City have crashed out at the group stage in their two previous campaigns after being placed in the most difficult of groups, but Richards says the draw has been kinder this year.
Having kicked off their latest European adventure with a 3-0 win away to Viktoria Plzen earlier this month, City are now preparing to face reigning champions Bayern Munich at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday.
CSKA Moscow are the other team in Group D and Richards believes it is City's best opportunity yet to at least make the last 16.
"The last two seasons, without making excuses, the groups that we've had have been really hard," the defender told Sky Sports News.
"I think this group is still hard but is a little bit easier than the last two.
"We started off with a good win away and we are at home now so hopefully we can get another good result, but it's massive for the club now.
"We won the Premier League, or scraped it by goal difference, and now we want to improve every year and it's important we do that in the Champions League."
Richards is desperate not to suffer more European heartache and feels that City are well equipped to compete in the Champions League.
He said: "With the players we have, we should be there or thereabouts in the Champions League, but to not qualify in the last two seasons has been pretty hard for everyone to take.
"Now the team looks like it is gelling at the right time. We can go into Champions League games with confidence and I feel good this year.
"I think the draw is a little bit on our side and I just hope we qualify and see where we go from there."