Man City have shown signs that Champions League quarter-finals curse still lingers against Borussia Dortmund
Posted On April 6, 2021
Manchester City vs Borussia Dortmund had the potential to be one of the most one-sided Champions League quarter-finals in history, according to the form book.
Before kick-off, City had won only one of their previous 26 encounters. During the same span, Dortmund had lost five, leaving them well adrift of the Bundesliga top four. Two key players, Jadon Sancho and Axel Witsel, were also missed by visitors.
Despite this, BVB held an important psychological advantage; namely, City’s Champions League quarterfinal hoodoo.
At first glance, Craig Shakespeare and Pep Guardiola have very little in common. Shakespeare never finds himself without a lump under each arm, snuggled up against his big British beer belly. He’s also always covered from head to toe in any free tracksuit he can get his hands on.
Guardiola, meanwhile, treats the sideline like his own catwalk, featuring the latest designer brands and cologne. Plus, the former Barcelona boss has a team of very expensive backroom staff to carry his balls in his place, an idea that (probably) makes Shakespeare physically ill.
Perhaps the only similarity between the two coaches is that the furthest they’ve ever taken an English side to the Champions League is the quarter-finals. Shakespeare’s Leicester City lost to Atletico Madrid in 2017, while Guardiola’s Cityzens have a list of four winners. These range from the illustrious, in the case of Liverpool, to the ridiculous, in the case of Monaco, FC Porto. and Lyon (with all due respect to all of them).
On Tuesday night, when Dortmund arrived in town, this disturbing story seemed to play on the minds of Guardiola’s players. Against an impressive Leicester but without Shakespeare on Saturday, they effortlessly dominated, performing as well as any Premier League side of the past decade.
This was not the case against the Bundesliga. For all the trouble Phil Foden caused in the Dortmund defense, for all of Kevin De Bruyne’s runs and for all of Riyad Mahrez’s creativity, it was still a nervous night with the all-conquering city guilty of several reckless mistakes. Most notable of these was Ederson’s horrific attempt to handle a long ball just past the half hour mark.
Coming out of goal, the Brazilian carelessly took a touch and was pinched the ball by the impressive Jude Bellingham. Ederson’s blush was only saved by a happy referee who mistakenly blew up for a foul before the ball crossed the line. This excludes the possibility for VAR to correct the decision.
Ruben Dias – a true contender for several end-of-season awards – also seemed shaken by the ‘curse’, or perhaps it was simply the presence of Erling Haaland. Dias made some unusual mistakes in the second half, while Kyle Walker’s wasting possession could also be blamed on that mental pressure.
Physiological factors may also explain the build-up of Dortmund’s potentially crucial goal away from home. In the previous period, City were all over their opponents, but as was often the case when they encountered less opposition in the quarterfinals, that killer instinct was lacking.
As a result, Dortmund could knock them out with a 1-0 win next Wednesday, and while that might seem unlikely given their leaky defense, you wouldn’t necessarily bet against them outclassing Guardiola’s accusations overnight.
If things turn bad (again), it will be impossible for City not to remember tonight where a more relaxed performance, freed from the baggage of their disappointing past, could have put them in a much stronger position.