The draw for the last 16 of the Champions League delivered a mixed bag for British clubs, with Arsenal pitted against incumbent title holders Barcelona, while Chelsea face in-form Paris Saint-Germain, and Manchester City take on Dynamo Kiev.
The reaction across the Twittersphere resoundingly assumed that Arsenal’s campaign will come grinding to a halt against Messi, Suarez, Neymar and co, while Chelsea’s chances of overcoming a PSG side who are utterly imperious in Ligue 1 at the moment were given short shrift.
— Citizen TV Kenya (@citizentvkenya) December 14, 2015
The smart money when it comes to UEFA competitions betting options in 2016 seems to be on Manchester City, who have drawn Dynamo Kiev – a side whose vulnerabilities were exposed on a number of notable occasions during the group stages.
Back in September, Dynamo’s campaign got off to an innocuous start with a 2-2 draw against FC Porto – a game in which they only avoided defeat thanks to Vitaliy Buyalskyy’s 89th-minute equaliser.
The Ukrainian club improved in their second outing, beating Maccabi Tel-Aviv 2-0 in Israel, but came unstuck in their following two group games against Chelsea. A dour 0-0 draw at Olimpiyskiy Stadium preceded a 2-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge against Jose Mourinho’s drastically underperforming Blues. Subsequent wins over Porto and Maccabi did little to shift the idea that Dynamo would be the beneficiaries of having been placed in a rather weak Champions League group.
City, meanwhile, navigated their way through a tricky Group D, which included Italian champions Juventus as well as Sevilla and Borussia Monchengladbach, and emerged as the top team in the group with 12 points from their six matches.
There have been times when City have looked out of sorts in the Premier League this season, not least when Liverpool dealt them a 4-1 thrashing at the Etihad in November, or when they limped to a 2-0 defeat at Stoke City’s Britannia Stadium, much to the delight of former Manchester City manager Mark Hughes – who now coaches the Potters.
But in Europe, Manuel Pellegrini’s men have produced some of their best football, and the manner in which they overcame Monchengladbach in their final group game showed how ruthless they can be when they play with confidence.
City were pegged back 2-1 at half-time, after goals from Julian Korb and Raffael Caetano cancelled out David Silva’s opener, but it was the man who provided the assist for that opener, Raheem Sterling, who delivered the goods in the second half and put in one of his best performances in a blue shirt.
Sterling levelled the game with a superb goal from Wilfried Bony’s assist, and the same combination of players gave City the lead two minutes later, with Sterling again the man on the end of a fine passing move.
Bony completed the victory with an 85th-minute goal, but it was Sterling who earned the plaudits for his man-of-the-match performance. It was for exactly this type of all-action display that Manuel Pellegrini brought Sterling to Manchester, and if he can continue his current run of form then City could well brush Dynamo aside with ease to reach the Champions League quarter-finals.