What happens next: How Manchester City responded to previous Champions League exits

Date published: Thursday 5th May 2022 8:09 - Dave Tickner

Son Heung-Min celebrates scoring the only goal for Tottenham against Manchester City on the opening day of the 2021/22 Premier League season

Manchester City have once again managed to Typical City their way out of the Champions League in quite breathtaking and heartbreaking fashion.

There’s no time to lick those wounds, though, with City forced to regroup instantly or risk seeing even the one remaining trophy they’re fighting for slip from their grasp.

The ‘good’ news is that this kind of Champions League setback has happened to City so many times before that we can have a good old look back at what they’ve done in previous games immediately following such disappointments and determine whether or not they really are about to spaff away some precious Premier League points as well and help Liverpool on their way to the little-mentioned Quadruple.


2016/17 Champions League exit: R16, Monaco 3-1 Manchester City (6-6, Monaco won on away goals)

Next competitive game: Manchester City 1-1 Liverpool

The exit that started the trend, and City’s first (but not last) shambolic succumbing to the away goals rule. Poor old Pep got so spooked by the three goals Monaco scored at the Etihad that he entirely forgot about the five City had managed. It’s still a two-goal lead, Pep. “Away goals count double” was always confusingly inaccurate. But having confidently yet mathematically incorrectly declared that City had to score in Monaco to have a chance, Pep stuffed his team full of attackers and promptly shipped another three goals. They did get one away goal, though, so a moral victory.

City followed the Champions League exit that still appears to hold a damning amount of influence over their Big Cup exploits with a fun and chance-filled 1-1 draw against Liverpool, as two entertaining but defensively flawed sides consolidated their top-four spots behind Chelsea and Spurs. Five years is a long time, isn’t it?


2017/18 Champions League exit: QF, Manchester City 1-2 Liverpool (1-5)

Next competitive game: Tottenham 1-3 Manchester City

City had bollocksed this one up at Anfield in the first leg, really, spanked 3-0 by a Liverpool team that was just starting to morph into the one we know today but was still eons away from City. Such was the extent of City’s domestic dominance that nobody was quite dismissing the second leg as an irrelevance. City did cut the deficit but then Pep got sent off protesting a disallowed goal that would have made it 2-0 on the night and really interesting. Still, though, it felt like a Champions League tie that only City themselves could lose from Liverpool’s position, and goals from Salah and Mane turned the result round on the night and secured a straightforward aggregate win.

City bounced back pretty well on this occasion, with a 3-1 away win over a Tottenham team still somewhere near its Poch Peak and on a 14-match unbeaten league run. A slightly iffy penalty helped City into an early 2-0 lead before Christian Eriksen pulled one back against the run of play just before half-time. Spurs threatened to complete the comeback before Gabriel Jesus made the points safe and took City 16 points clear of second-placed Manchester United, whose defeat to West Brom the following day would confirm the title for Pep and the gang.


2018/19 Champions League exit: QF, Manchester City 4-3 Tottenham (4-4, Spurs won on away goals)

Next competitive game: Manchester City 1-0 Tottenham

A one-goal home win over Tottenham followed by a one-goal home win over Tottenham. Just rock-solid consistent form and nothing more to say. Apparently we need to, though. One of those games is slightly better remembered, and for some reason it’s not the one in which an 18-year-old Phil Foden scored his first Premier League goal to take City back above Liverpool to the top of the Premier League. Those feel like quite memorable things, really, but it can’t quite compete with a game that stands out as absurd even in the gargantuan Manchester City (and Spurs, tbf) catalogue of nonsense.

It was a nervy but vital win, with Foden’s header coming after just five minutes and City surviving some sustained Spurs pressure as the game wore on. Given the way that Premier League run-in panned out, it was a game City had to win and win it they just about did. Feels like it could provide the most relevant form-line for this weekend.

Phil Foden celebrates his first Premier League goal, for Manchester City against Tottenham in April 2019

2019/20 Champions League exit: QF, Manchester City 1-3 Lyon

Next competitive game: Wolves 1-3 Manchester City

A deeply, deeply silly Champions League exit in which Guardiola decided to second-guess things against a bang average Lyon team that City should have spangled by just playing properly. The fact it was the summer of Covid would offer some mitigation were it the first or last time City had engaged in such daftery. But it isn’t so it doesn’t.

That ‘tournament format’ finish to the 2020 Champions League took place in August, which meant City’s next competitive match wasn’t actually until the delayed start of the following Premier League season in September. And the result was a solid enough win over solid enough opposition that actually bears many of the hallmarks of the 3-1 win at Spurs a couple of years earlier, except it came a month rather than three days after the preceding Champions League catastrophe. Early two-goal lead, including a penalty, home team pulls one back against the run of play to make things a bit nervy, Jesus nets a third City goal to settle any remaining nerves.


2020/21 Champions League exit: Final, Chelsea 1-0 Manchester City

Next competitive game: Tottenham 1-0 Manchester City

Once again we head into the following season for a response to Champions League pant-soiling. Guardiola had plenty of time to (over)think about the decision to leave out both Rodri and Fernandinho for the final against Chelsea and entrust defensive midfield responsibilities entirely to Ilkay Gundogan, an astonishing move made all the more so by the fact it didn’t even make our top three of Pep Champions League overthoughts, and the result was not great.

You can decide among yourselves whether the Community Shield is a competitive game or not, but it makes little difference. City lost that game 1-0 to FA Cup holders Leicester and then kicked off the 2021/22 league season with what would, even more absurdly, become only their second daftest league defeat of the season to Spurs. Strange things do seem to happen when those two meet; it’s like Spursiness and Typical Cityness are such powerful forces that when they collide the result can be almost anything but it will almost certainly be banter. This one was an early and entirely misleading success for Nuno Espirito Santo, whose side snuffed out City’s attacking threat really quite nicely before frequent City scourge Son-Heung Min got the winner.


2021/22 Champions League exit: Real Madrid 3-1 Manchester City (6-5)

Next competitive game: Newcastle (H), Sunday

The nature of City’s exit, two goals in the dying minutes of normal time and another in the early stages of extra-time, were very typical, but the manner of this defeat feels a bit different. This one feels somehow less like City Citying themselves (although they could have avoided all this by scoring the four goals they should have had in the first 20 minutes of the first leg) and more like just running into the inevitability of Real Madrid, a team who have now committed extraordinary nonsense to win three knockout ties in a way against genuine elite opposition while being quite markedly crap for most of the duration of each tie.

Following in the footsteps of PSG and Chelsea in just being obliterated by narrative could offer some solace were this not such a familiar and well-trodden path for City, and you have to think that lifting themselves for the rigours of a title run-in that now represents the very far from certain Single for a team that had been chasing the Treble until the last couple of weeks could be a tricky old thing.

Even had they progressed, this would still be a ticklish one for City. Newcastle now are clearly not the same as Newcastle then, and this game now represents a significant opening for Liverpool who – however brilliant they are – can’t win the Quadruple without at least some help from someone else.

City’s record of three wins a draw and a defeat after previous Champions League exits isn’t… great by their standards, but it would also need noting that they’ve been tricky fixtures, too. Liverpool once and Spurs three times is not ideal wound-licking territory.

It should also be noted that for all their impressive work over the last five months or so, Newcastle have still generally come up short against the best; their four Premier League defeats in 2022 have been against Spurs, Chelsea, Liverpool and Everton.

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