Eight years after an influx of money from Abu Dhabi transformed Manchester City’s fortunes, the team is closing in on another landmark: A place in the Champions League quarterfinals.
With a 3-1 lead over Dynamo Kiev, even an erratic City should be able to protect the advantage in Tuesday’s second leg.
“(The quarterfinals) is a target we’ve had for a number of years now and we’ve got ourselves in a good position,” City goalkeeper Joe Hart said Monday. “We’ve got 90 minutes now to try to make history.”
City has failed to win back-to-back Premier League games since October and slipped to fourth, the final Champions League qualification place. With West Ham only two points behind, City is in danger of failing to return to Europe’s elite competition next season when Pep Guardiola succeeds Manuel Pellegrini as manager.
Winning the Champions League is one way of securing qualification for next season, but City has never won the European Cup.
“It’s a difficult tournament but we’ve got to believe we can win it or there’s no point in turning up,” Hart said. “We’re fighting on a personal basis and a team basis. We’ve been together for a long time, it’s a short career, we’ve got to take advantage of the opportunities we have.”
Here are some things to know about Tuesday’s match:
Dynamo Kiev has exceeded expectations just by qualifying for the knockout stage for the first time in 16 years. But realistically, Dynamo’s hopes of advancing rested on winning at home where cold weather and loud fans can intimidate opponents.
Instead, City scored three valuable away goals, including a curling shot by Yaya Toure.
“Every player needs to devote himself to the team’s plan of action and then, we have to hope, the result will come,” Dynamo coach Serhiy Rebrov said.
A weakened Dynamo team beat Karpaty Lviv 2-1 on Friday to stay three points clear of Shakhtar Donetsk at the top of the Ukrainian league and remain unbeaten domestically since October.
Dynamo’s record could not be more different in England, where the team has never won in 13 attempts.
Dynamo flew to Manchester with a squad depleted by injuries, although Andriy Yarmolenko is fit.
Brazilian forward Junior Moraes, who caused City problems in Kiev as a second-half substitute, is out with a hip injury, while defender Danilo Silva and midfielder Serhiy Rybalka remain doubts despite making the trip.
A spate of injuries to fringe players could leave Rebrov short of options on the bench.
There are no questions, however, over stalwart goalkeeper Oleksandr Shovkovskiy, who at 41 is the third-oldest player in Champions League history.
As well as having made his Champions League debut in 1994, before some of City’s squad were even born, Shovkovskiy on Friday matched the appearance record for the Ukrainian league in his 412th game. (AP)