Eliaquim Mangala wants Manchester City to cut out the mistakes – but is a lack of work rate to blame for their poor Champions League form?
City are under pressure to improve in Europe’s premier competition this season after failing to get beyond the group stage in either of their first two campaigns before falling at the last-16 hurdle last time around.
However, despite taking the lead in their opening group game against Juventus on Tuesday night, City slipped to a 2-1 defeat at the Etihad Stadium.
Mangala, who failed to cut out Paul Pogba’s ball for the equaliser, believes the game highlighted the difference in quality between the Premier League and Champions League.
“We were controlling the game, and then on those two balls [that we failed to clear] we conceded twice,” he said.
“At this level, you can’t concede goals like that. They have a quality team. Today we paid for [our mistakes] right away.
“In the league, I think you’re allowed a bit more, not mistakes, but some moments when you are a bit less focused. That is not possible in the Champions League.”
Wilfried Bony, meanwhile, blamed missed chances, adding: “It was difficult because they closed completely their goal and they were complete in defence and trying to play counter-attack.
“They played completely close to their goal so it was difficult to find any space. But we created chances and we didn’t score, and at the end they took their chances. We were not lucky enough to score the goals and we paid the price.”
While Mangala blames mistakes and Bony missed chances for the defeat to Juve, UEFA statistics show City’s players covered a combined distance of only 100.1 kilometres in the game, a figure which was at least four kilometres less than any of the other 15 sides in action on Tuesday night. It was some 15km lower than the distances covered by Sevilla and Borussia Monchengladbach in the other Group D game.
In 29 games in the Champions League, City have been outrun by their opponents on 21 occasions. They won only four of those games, while in general only 19% of wins in the Champions League are recorded by teams that have run less than their opponents.
Conversely, of the eight games in which City have outran the opposition, they have won six times, drawn twice and lost just once.
What is to blame for City’s poor form in the Champions League? Is it a lack of concentration in defence? Profligacy in front of goal? A lack of hard yards? A combination of all three factors? Or something different altogether?