PARIS. — Manchester City are well set to make Champions League history and alleviate the misery engulfing English football’s heavyweights as they take on Dynamo Kiev tonight.
The match starts at 9:45pm
City have never yet made it beyond the last 16 in Europe’s premier club competition but hold a 3-1 lead from the first leg in the Ukraine.
Although Manuel Pellegrini’s team have already secured the English League Cup this season, beating Liverpool on penalties to do so, it has been a largely inglorious year for England’s top clubs.
Barring a near-miracle at the Camp Nou, Barcelona will complete victory over an Arsenal side they defeated 2-0 in London in the first leg.
With Chelsea crashing out to French champions Paris Saint-Germain last week and Manchester United crumbling in the group stages, City will almost certainly be England’s only remaining participants in the Champions League when the draw for the quarter-finals is made – providing they see off Kiev.
Yet even victory at Eastlands won’t mask what has been a thoroughly depressing season for English giants as Leicester City continue to dominate the Premier League table while United, Chelsea and Liverpool languish outside even the European qualification places.
Arsenal and City are eight and nine points respectively behind Leicester and both out of the FA Cup.
Even in the Europa League, England look set to be left with one single representative in the quarter-finals.
And so success for City would have extra significance in arresting the slide that has swamped the English Premier League since the heady days when for three seasons in a row from 2007-2009, three of the four Champions League semi-finalists were from England.
Not that Pellegrini believes the tie with Dynamo is over.
“If we can get to the quarter-final of the Champions League for the first time, of course that will be another important achievement,” said the Chilean, who will leave City at the end of the season.
“But one of the worst things we can do is to think that we have already qualified.
“They are a big team who play attacking football in their league so we must be wary about that.”
And Manchester City, struggling for domestic consistency, will take a big step in the right direction if they can qualify for the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time, Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho said.
After back-to-back Last 16 exits, Manuel Pellegrini’s side look on course to make it third time lucky and reach the quarters as they hold a 3-1 lead over Ukrainian champions Dynamo Kyiv ahead of tonight’s second leg at the Etihad Stadium.
“It is the first time we have a chance to go forward to the quarter-final. It’s a big step for the club, for everyone,” Fernandinho told City TV.
Saturday’s goalless draw in the Premier League at third-from-bottom Norwich City has left the Manchester club nine points behind leaders Leicester City and just two points above fifth-placed West Ham United with nine games remaining.
Fernandinho was wary of missing out on Champions League football next season, but also refused to write off his side’s title chances.
“We have nine games to play and, even if we don’t have the chance to be champions, we have to finish in the top four,” he said. There is always a chance (of the title), especially with this team. No one gives up, fight to the end.”
While Pellegrini is guarding against complacency, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is trying to motivate his side to keep believing against the Catalan reigning champions.
“It is very difficult against Barcelona, but we have to see it as a challenge and try to make the impossible possible,” said the Frenchman. Barca romped to a 6-0 trouncing of Getafe on Saturday, 24 hours before Arsenal lost 2-1 at home to Watford in the FA Cup.
Luis Enrique even rested some of his top players ahead of Arsenal’s visit tomorrow, taking no chances against a team they have twice eliminated in the knockout stages since beating them 2-1 in the 2006 final.
“It won’t be an easy match, but one with a small advantage,” said Barca’s former Arsenal centre-back Thomas Vermaelen. — AFP.