Manchester City came within a single game of reaching the Champions League final last season and although the Citizens aren’t even officially in the group stages of the latest edition, the omens look highly promising for another deep run, even glory.
In Pep Guardiola’s first European expedition as City manager, the Spaniard oversaw a club record 5-0 away win over Steaua Bucharest in the first leg of their play-off to make the competition proper.
Having inflicted what looks like irreparable damage on the Romanians, it’s probably safe to assume the Premier League side are now assured to be in the draw.
Had Sergio Aguero not passed up two opportunities to score from the spot, before atoning with a masterfully-taken hat-trick from open play, the scoreline would have been more emphatic.
While defeating Romania’s runners-up must be placed in context, there was an attacking fluidity about City, spearheaded by the irrepressible Aguero, which looked capable of troubling far more accomplished defences than Steaua’s.
The one-touch linking between the Argentine and his supporting cast featuring new signing Nolito, Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne was particular pleasing on the eye and, dare it be said, reminiscent of a certain Barca vintage from Guardiola’s past.
A clean sheet featuring a promising brawn-and-brains partnership between Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones in the central berths was yet another encouraging element.
It will rankle Guardiola that he couldn’t add to his pair of Champions League medals as Barcelona boss in his three-year stay with Bayern Munich before arriving at the Etihad.
In all three campaigns the Godfather of tika-taka was halted at the semi-final stage as Bayern’s gaffer.
For those who witnessed this first glimpse of City in European action under the Spaniard, the 11/1 about a march to glory is a very tempting bet, even at this extraordinarily early phase.
If (when) last season’s semi-finalists are confirmed as group-stage participants, that price will undoubtedly narrow.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.