Despite their troubling campaign under David Moyes, Manchester United went further in the Champions League last season than both Manchester City and Arsenal.
They managed as much because they won their group.
Even a 2-0 deficit from United’s last-16 first leg against Olympiakos was surmountable at Old Trafford, while their neighbours predictably exited at the hands of Barcelona.
At the same stage, the Gunners gave up at home to FC Bayern Munchen after Mesut Ozil’s early penalty miss, eventually crashing out against the Bavarians for the second successive season.
Both City and Arsenal could and should have won their mini-leagues.
Another goal from Manuel Pellegrini’s side against Pep Guardiola’s in the sides’ 2013/14 group finale would have ensured as much for the Premier League champions, although the Chilean seemed unaware of that fact afterwards.
Similarly, had Arsenal merely avoided one of their losses against Napoli or Borussia Dortmund they would have sat pretty at the summit of Group F.
Such results would have seen Arsene Wenger’s men land Zenit St-Petersburg in the last 16, while City took on a beatable AC Milan side at the same stage. What a waste.
Arsenal are 6/5 to top a Group D containing Dortmund again, while City have been landed with FC Bayern once more and are 41/20 to right last season’s wrongs.
Both sides simply must best all around them if they wish to reach the quarter finals at worst this term.
The difference between first and second couldn’t be starker, as explained below…
– Man City and Arsenal’s likeliest last-16 Champions League opponents, should they both finish second in their groups:
Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, FC Bayern Munchen (Arsenal only), Borussia Dortmund (Man City only), Benfica, Barcelona, Athletic Bilbao
– Man City and Arsenal’s likeliest last-16 opponents, should they both finish first in their groups:
Juventus, Bayer Leverkusen, FC Bayern Munchen (Arsenal only), Borussia Dortmund (Man City only), Paris Saint-Germain, Schalke, Porto
The difference is clear, as the Premier League pair would feel little fear from any side exclusively in the second grouping bar PSG, but would be praying for either Bilbao or Benfica from the first pot, which isn’t a position any club could relish.
Few expect Liverpool to topple Real in their Group B, but it’s available at 33/10 with bwin.com if you fancy.